WHO Calls for Stronger Tobacco and E-cigarette Control in Southeast Asia

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WHO Calls for Stronger Tobacco and E-cigarette Control in Southeast Asia
WHO calls for stronger tobacco and e-cigarette control in Southeast Asia, despite some progress in reducing consumption.

According to a statement on the official website of the World Health Organization (WHO) on February 20, WHO is urging countries in the Southeast Asia region to strengthen their control efforts on tobacco and e-cigarettes. Despite a significant decrease in tobacco consumption in recent years, the region still has the highest tobacco consumption globally, and the use of e-cigarettes is also gradually increasing.


Ms Saima Wazed, Regional Director of the WHO Southeast Asia office, stated that the region still has the highest number of tobacco users globally, putting them at risk for life-threatening diseases such as cancer, respiratory, and heart diseases. It is crucial to take action to control the use of e-cigarettes, as they have not been proven effective in helping people quit smoking. We must do everything we can to control the use of tobacco and e-cigarettes to protect health and save lives.


The World Health Organization's Southeast Asia region has seen a decrease in tobacco users from 68.9% in 2000 to 43.7% in 2022. However, the region still has approximately 4.11 billion people using tobacco. Additionally, the region has around 2.8 billion non-smoking tobacco users, accounting for nearly 77% of the global total, as well as approximately 11 million teenage tobacco users aged 13-15, representing nearly 30% of the global total.


In many countries, especially among young people, the use of e-cigarettes is on the rise, and dual use with traditional tobacco is also common. Thailand has been tracking the use of e-cigarettes and has found that the rate of e-cigarette use among schoolchildren aged 13 to 15 has increased sharply, from 3.3% in 2015 to 17.6% in 2022.


The World Health Organization has pledged to support policies aimed at combating the interference of the tobacco and e-cigarette industry in order to protect the health of the 2 billion people in the region. North Korea, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Timor-Leste have already banned e-cigarettes, while the Maldives regulates e-cigarettes as tobacco products.


Over the years, countries in the region have made significant progress in combating tobacco. The tobacco use rate among men has decreased from 68.9% in 2000 to 43.7% in 2022, while the rate among women has also declined from 33.5% in 2000 to 9.4% in 2022, marking the largest decrease among all World Health Organization regions.


The region, along with the World Health Organization African region, is working towards achieving the goal of reducing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) related to tobacco use by 30% by 2025. It is expected that India and Nepal will reach the NCD goal of reducing tobacco use by at least 30% by 2025, while eight other countries are also set to see a decrease in tobacco use, even though the decrease may not reach 30%.


Bangladesh has announced that it will achieve a "tobacco-free Bangladesh" by 2024, while India has launched the "Tobacco Endgame" plan.


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