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Message From Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative in China

2007-05-30 12:27 954

WORLD NO TOBACCO DAY 31 MAY 2007

BEIJING, May 30 /Xinhua-PRNewswire/ -- World No Tobacco Day 2007 is an urgent reminder that tobacco is a major health challenge in China -- a country that has one third of the world’s smokers.

(Logo: http://www.prnasia.com/sa/20061102095006-51.jpg )

The warning bells are ringing on China’s tobacco burden.

Nearly 350 million people smoke in China. 50 percent of those who do not smoke are exposed to harmful smoke from other people’s cigarettes.

China is the world’s biggest producer of tobacco with one third of the world’s tobacco leaf production and one third of the world’s cigarette manufacturing output.

Tobacco use in China is socially and economically devastating.

Smoking contributes heavily to China’s burden of disease, costing over $5 billion annually.

The death toll from diseases associated with tobacco is around one million Chinese annually, a figure that is expected to increase to 2.2 million per year by 2020 if smoking rates remain unchanged.

Tobacco is a driving force in the rising epidemic of chronic diseases in China, placing increasing pressure on China’s health system.

The Chinese Government has declared itself ready to take on the tobacco fight and has ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - the international WHO treaty that aims to wage war against smoking and tobacco-related illnesses.

Now China needs to implement comprehensive measures that will change people’s behaviour and lead to fewer people smoking.

Increasing tobacco taxes is a clear win-win situation for China. Despite a fall in the number of people smoking, higher taxes mean the Government’s revenue will rise and there will be a fall in smoking-related health costs, diseases and deaths.

Raising tobacco taxes needs to be complemented by other measures that further reduce the demand for tobacco - such as banning cigarette advertising strong warnings on the labels of tobacco products, and moving towards smoke-free environments.

Ultimately, China needs to enact national laws that set the standard for tobacco control for the entire country and are clear, strong and enforceable.

The 2008 Olympics will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to in China’s tobacco fight. China has committed to a smoke-free Olympics. Delivering on this will send a powerful message and generate momentum for a sustained long-term campaign.

Fighting tobacco is not easy, especially when there is a state monopoly on tobacco production. There will always be huge opposition to tobacco control in China. Political commitment is needed across every element of the Chinese Government.

WHO looks forward to supporting the Chinese government in its ongoing tobacco fight.

More information about World No Tobacco Day is available at http://www.who.int/tobacco/communications/events/wntd/2007/en .

Source: World Health Organization
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