Laos - capital city Vientiane to go smoke-free for SEA Games..

September 4, 2009 - Laos government officials have launched a smoke-free Vientiane to help address health and environmental concerns in the lead-up to the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. Vientiane Vice-Mayor Somvandy Nathavong said the new initiative will target local businesses and people, in particular students and teenagers.

Vientiane is the capital city of Laos, situated in the Mekong Valley. It is Laos's largest city with an estimated population of the city is 200,000 (2005). The number of people living in the Vientiane metropolitan area (the entire Vientiane Prefecture and parts of Vientiane Province) is believed to be over 730,000. Vientiane will host for the first time the 25th SEA Games in December celebrating the 50 years of SEA Games.

World Health Organization Representative Dr Dongil Ahn explained that there are two methods to address the problem of smoking. One way is encouraging smokers to stop smoking. Another effective approach is to limit peoples' exposure to tobacco smoke by banning smoking in public areas, both indoors and outdoors.

Dr Ahn said for the benefit of all, in February 2009 the Vientiane governor signed the Implementation of a Smoke Free Policy in public places such as office building, schools, hospital and restaurant in Vientiane city.

Dr Ahn: "Following today's smoke free initiative, I hope the government will continue to strengthen its anti-tobacco efforts by emphasising the health warnings on cigarette packs, banning advertisement of tobacco and increasing the tax on tobacco products. Such regulations would go far in making Vientiane an even healthier place to live and work," he explained.

Adventist Development and Relief Agency Programme Director, Ms Karmen Till added that the the upcoming SEA Games will be a great opportunity for Laos to show its neighbouring countries that they are serious about the problem. Next year, Vientiane will have another opportunity to maximise the benefits of being a smoke-free capital - during the 450th anniversary of Vientiane as the capital of Laos.

Related news brief: Laos - possible smoking ban coming..

Reference: Laos launches smoke-free city, Vientiane Times/Asia News Network, 9/2/2009.

Luang Stupa - the single most important monument in Laos,
click to enlarge..