A new Global Alliance for Smoke-Free Tourism was launched at the recent 8th Asia Pacific Smoke-Free Meeting with the theme, “Rising amidst the challenges: Strengthening and sustaining smoke-free implementation and enforcement.”
Attended by more than 150 delegates, the meeting was a joint effort between the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), the Smoke-free Cities Asia Pacific Network (SCAN), and the local government of Baguio City, the Philippine Department of Health, and the World Health Organisation in the Western Pacific Region.
“This Meeting provides an excellent platform for ASEAN Member States and other Asia Pacific stakeholders and partners to share information on strategies, practices and challenges on the implementation and enforcement of smoke-free initiatives, and the processes of preparing smoke-free mechanisms, and sustaining our gains and responding to threats from new tobacco products and technologies, “ noted Keynote Speaker Dr Souphaphone Sadettan, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Lao PDR.
The event gathered public health and local government officials to share best practices on smoke-free enforcement as part of a comprehensive tobacco control and health promotion strategy.
“We must remember that as leaders of our communities, we are entrusted with the herculean but completely doable task of ensuring the health and safety of our people. On our shoulders rests the responsibility to utilise all existing tools at hand to put an end to this [tobacco] epidemic. We must not waver until we reach our collective goal of having smoke-free communities,” underscored Atty Benjamin Abalos, Jr., Secretary of the Philippines’ Department of Interior and Local Government.
Delegates from the Philippines (Balanga City and M’lang), Lao PDR, and Cambodia shared insights on smoke-free enforcement infrastructures, while Penang, Malaysia and Iloilo City, Philippines narrated how they ensure public compliance with smoke-free ordinances.
Ma-Ayon, Capiz and Baguio City highlighted strategies on sustaining their respective smoke-free enforcement strategies while representatives of Kelantan, Malaysia; Shan, Myanmar; Xieng Khouang, Lao PDR; and Vietnam spoke on the future of smoke-free enforcement in the ASEAN Region.
“The effort to create a smoke-free environment should never be seen as a lonesome advocacy. What is the use of having a smoke-free city when surrounding areas do not have any smoke-free policy? Let’s take this opportunity to work together and commit to clear goals on how we can achieve a smoke-free Asia Pacific not for us – but for all our posterity,” said Baguio City Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan.
The meeting closed with the delegates identifying concrete next steps in terms of smoke-free implementation as part of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy. These next steps include the importance of resource mobilisation, robust awareness-raising campaigns amongst communities, efficient and strong enforcement networks, and the presence of strong political will towards a more successful smoke-free implementation.
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control 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.
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