MANILA, 31 MAY 2018 (WHO) — One million people in the World Health Organisation (WHO) Western Pacific Region die each year from cardiovascular disease caused by tobacco use.

More than 1 in 5 cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke, result from smoking.

On World No Tobacco Day, 31 May, WHO is calling attention to the impact of tobacco on cardiovascular health with the campaign theme “Tobacco Breaks Hearts”.

Nearly 1 in 4 people in the Region are smokers, which puts them at risk of cardiovascular disease. However, non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke also face an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, resulting in some 168 000 deaths in the Region each year.

“While many people are aware that smoking significantly harms our bodies—particularly our lungs—many people still do not know that tobacco can cause a heart attack or stroke, whether they are smokers themselves or exposed to others’ smoke,” says Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.

Studies have found that people’s awareness that tobacco is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease is variable across the Western Pacific Region. Around 97% of adults in Cambodia and 85% of adults in the Philippines are aware that smoking causes heart attack. But in China and in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, more than half the adult population (both current smokers and non-smokers) does not believe that smoking causes heart attack.

“We must continue working with countries and partners across the Region to educate people about the harmful effects of tobacco, implement laws and policies to reduce demand and supply of tobacco, and help smokers quit,” says Dr Shin.

All countries in the Western Pacific Region have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). It obliges Parties to the Convention to take steps to reduce the demand for and supply of tobacco products. This includes protecting people from exposure to tobacco smoke, banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, requiring health warnings on tobacco packaging, promoting tobacco cessation, and increasing tobacco taxes.

Currently, 1 in 5 people in the Region or 349 million people are protected by at least one recommended tobacco control measure. The Region also has the world’s leading examples of strong graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging, including Vanuatu where warnings cover 90% of the packaging and Australia which was the first country in the world to implement plain packaging of tobacco products. Nearly 63 million people in 9 countries in the Region are protected by comprehensive, 100% smoke-free laws.

The second edition of the WHO global report on trends in prevalence of tobacco smoking 2000–2025, released today, demonstrates how tobacco use declines as tobacco control efforts progress. By 2025, the prevalence of current smokers in the Western Pacific Region is projected to go down to roughly 22%. However, unless countries enforce further tobacco control measures, the 2025 target of reducing prevalence to roughly 18% will not be met.

Every year, WHO recognises people and institutions that have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of policies and measures in the WHO FCTC and its guidelines. Recipients of the 2018 World No Tobacco Day Awards from the Western Pacific Region are:

*Dr Bounkong Syhavong, Minister of Health, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, for adopting pictorial health warnings covering 75% of tobacco packaging and implementing interventions to reduce noncommunicable diseases in low-resource settings.

*Hu Dayi, Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, for his work in engaging cardiologists in tobacco control activities, introducing the first cessation clinics and outpatient cessation services in China, promoting smoke-free hospitals, and furthering tobacco control legislation.

*The Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Kiribati, for increasing community buy-in for tobacco control efforts and raising awareness on the harms of tobacco.

*The National Health Insurance Service, Republic of Korea, for introducing a cessation programme funded by tobacco taxes and for its ongoing litigation against tobacco companies, which has unified the health community and drawn public attention to the harms of tobacco.

*The Ministry of Health, Tonga and the Tonga Health Promotion Foundation for launching the Tuku Ifi Leva (Quit Smoking Now) campaign, which includes a toll-free quitline, stronger laws enforcing smoke-free areas, advocacy for smoke-free homes and development of graphic health warnings for tobacco packaging.

*The National Cancer Center, Republic of Korea, for significantly contributing to the establishment of a national tobacco cessation programme, founding the Asia Pacific Quitline Network, triggering smoke-free medical and government facilities, and continuously advocating for tobacco control legislation.

Many countries in the WHO Western Pacific Region still lack smoke-free laws covering all public places and workplaces. Even in countries with comprehensive smoke-free laws, enforcement is often poor, with responsibility falling to managers and owners of public places. This leaves millions of people vulnerable to second-hand smoke.

To combat this issue, WHO will soon launch “Revolution Smoke-Free”, a campaign calling on employers in the Western Pacific Region—including those operating in public places such as restaurants, hotels and public transport—to make their workplaces 100% smoke-free. Traditionally, WHO works closely with governments to adopt and enforce smoke-free legislation, but opposition from other sectors often hinders the laws from being passed and fully implemented. Viet Nam will be the first country to kick off the campaign on World No Tobacco Day 2018.

Countries and areas of the WHO Western Pacific Region include: American Samoa (USA), Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia (France), Guam (USA), Hong Kong SAR (China), Japan, Kiribati, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Macao SAR (China), Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Nauru, New Caledonia (France), New Zealand, Niue, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (USA), Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Pitcairn Islands (UK), Republic of Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, and Wallis and Futuna (France)…. PACNEWS