Malaysia: Are tobacco control measures working? - WHO thinks so...

June 3, 2009 - Malaysia has been praised by the for its efforts in curbing smoking. It has been taking several proactive measures against smoking, including introducing graphic health warnings on cigarette packets.

The organisation has also recognised the efforts of Health Ministry deputy director-general (Public Health) Dr Ramlee Rahmat who received its Special Director-General Award for outstanding work on pictorial health warnings in conjunction with this year’s World No Tobacco Day.

Dr Ramlee was conferred the award for leadership in the tobacco control legislation process, which resulted in the Control of Tobacco Product Regulation that requires the mandatory display of six sets of pictorial health warnings.

WHO's regional director for the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young Soo, said: “Experience from around the world shows that pictorial warnings motivate users to quit and discourage people from starting.” Tobacco is the world’s leading preventable cause of death and the only product that kills when used exactly as the manufacturer intends. Worldwide, more than 5 million people die from tobacco each year, more than from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

In the Western Pacific Region, tobacco use is responsible for two deaths every minute. Unless urgent action is taken, there will be more than 8 million annual deaths globally by 2030, with more than 80 per cent of those in developing countries. Up to half of all smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease.

Dr Shin said: "Countries have obligations to use health warnings on tobacco products as part of the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.”

Four officials from Mongolia, Australia, Cambodia and Singapore also received the Special Director-General Award. Singapore introduced the pictorial health warnings in 2004 and Australia in 2006. Mongolia will implement the pictorial health warnings in January 2010 while Cambodia is developing a draft law on tobacco control and graphic health warnings.

Reference: WHO praises Malaysia for anti-smoking efforts by Annie Freeda Cruez, The New Straits Times, 6/2/2009.

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