Bangkok, 26 September 2018: Among more than 7 million people killed by tobacco-caused diseases globally each year, more than 500,000 occur in ASEAN according to the fourth edition of the ASEAN Tobacco Control Atlas released today by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) on the occasion of the 3rd UN High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) taking place in New York City on 27 September.
41 million people are killed each year by NCDs, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and lung disease, for which tobacco use is a leading but entirely preventable common risk factor. Tobacco use is also inextricably linked to poverty, as nicotine addiction drives smokers to spend a large proportion of their income on tobacco and reduces the amount of money available for basic necessities such as food, health care, and education. The economic and societal costs of tobacco-related diseases are staggering and cost an estimated US$ 1.4 trillion annually in tobacco-related healthcare costs and lost productivity due to illnesses and early deaths.
The fourth edition of the ASEAN Tobacco Control Atlas highlights both theprogress that has been achieved by ASEAN countries and the gaps and challenges that remain. “This updated atlas captures in detail the continuing battle waged by the tobacco industry against public health. The good news is that countries are fighting back to protect health and save lives. The bad news is that progress isn’t fast enough,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of SEATCA.
“This atlas reminds governments of their obligation to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, economic, and environmental harms of tobacco by fast-tracking implementation of tobacco control measures as contained in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), such as substantial tobacco tax increases, adopting a code of conduct in dealing with the industry, comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotions including pack displays and sponsorship, 100% smoke-free policies, plain tobacco packaging, and setting up sustainable financing mechanisms to finance tobacco control programs,” remarked Dorotheo.
Other highlights in the Atlas:
- Among ASEAN countries, male adult smoking prevalence is highest in Indonesia at 66 percent and lowest in Singapore at 21.1 percent. Adult female smoking rates are particularly high (5.8 to 8.4 percent) in Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and the Philippines.
- All ten ASEAN countries have implemented pictorial health warnings (PHWs) on cigarette packages, four of which are among the biggest in the world — Thailand (85 percent front and back of the pack), Brunei, Lao PDR and Myanmar (75 percent), while Singapore and Thailand are in advanced preparatory stages to require plain packaging.
- Tobacco tax policies have been strengthened in Brunei, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand and have helped to reduce affordability of tobacco products. However, the cigarette prices still remain affordable and relatively low (less than US$1 per pack) in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam where regular adjustment to increase higher tobacco tax is needed to keep pace with economic and income growth.
- All ASEAN countries are implementing a tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) ban, but most are partial bans, with Indonesia having the weakest TAPS restrictions in the region.
- Kiddie packs (less than 20 sticks per pack) are still allowed in Indonesia, Myanmar and Philippines, and there is no restriction on sale of single sticks of cigarettes in Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, making cigarettes easily accessible to minors.
- In many countries, tobacco control is underfunded. In addition, domestic resources for FCTC implementation are far from secure and must compete with other government programs. Only four out of ten ASEAN countries have established health promotion or tobacco control funds through surcharged taxes (Thailand, Lao PDR and Vietnam) and treasury budget (Malaysia).
- The tobacco industry continues to escape stringent regulation by interfering at all levels of tobacco control policy development and implementation. Only four ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) have taken concrete steps to protect their public health policies from tobacco industry interference by developing a policy, guidelines, or a code of conduct to prevent unnecessary interactions with the industry and ensure transparency of any interactions that occur.
- The tobacco industry keeps inventing new ways to sell harm through novel marketing schemes, attractive packaging, new flavors and new products to appeal to youths, women and first-time smokers. Tobacco companies are producing e-cigarettes that are available in myriads of flavors as well as heated tobacco products (HTP) and promote these as being less harmful than conventional cigarettes and as smoking cessation devices. Only four ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Singapore and Thailand) have banned sale of all types of heated tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, shisha and water pipe.
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.