WHO launches “blue ribbon” campaign to inform about tobacco smoke’s harms

At the triennial World Conference on Tobacco or Health, participants wore blue ribbons in solidarity with the millions of people who support smoke-free policies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Western Pacific created the campaign for the Region’s governments to recognize and acknowledge people and organizations working to implement the WHO Framework Convention provisions on smoke-free environments.

“Second-hand smoke is a serious health threat,” says Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. “Each year around the world, second-hand smoke accounts for more than 600 000 deaths, including 168 000 children. The evidence is clear that second-hand smoke kills and that there is no safe level of exposure to it.”

At a session here on smoke-free policies, WHO called on governments to take life-saving action against second-hand smoke, citing research that even brief exposure can cause heart attacks.

In the Western Pacific, exposure to second-hand smoke is generally high, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS). For example, in China 72.4% of nonsmokers have been exposed, and 38% are exposed daily. In Viet Nam, 49% of nonsmoking workers are exposed. In the Philippines, 36.9% of people who work indoors or outdoors in an enclosed area, were exposed at their workplace during the previous 30 days.

In Cambodia, more than half of adults live where smoking is allowed on a daily basis, according to the 2011 National Adult Tobacco Survey. And a study of nonsmokers in Seoul, Republic of Korea, found that 68% were exposed during a typical day.

Youths also are highly exposed at home and in public places. In the Philippines, 64.8% were exposed in public places and 54.5% at home, according to a 2007 study. In Malaysia, 64.1% were exposed in public places and 48.7% at home, according to a 2009 study. In many Pacific island countries, the youth exposure rates are even higher. In Papua New Guinea, 86.4% were exposed in public places and 73.9% at home, according to a 2007 study. In Solomon Islands, 79.2% were exposed in public places, according to a 2008 study.

Internationally, public support for bans on indoor smoking is high. For example, in Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, public support for smoke-free environments increased after smoke-free legislation was enacted. In the Western Pacific, GATS shows that most adults support smoking bans in public settings, and it is estimated that 88% of youths favor bans on indoor smoking.

“Governments can accelerate awareness of the harms of second-hand smoke through media campaigns and by recognizing the good work that civil society is already doing,” Dr Shin says. “The blue-ribbon campaign aims to help the millions of nonsmokers who support smoke-free policies.”

For more on the blue-ribbon campaign

For more information, please contact:

Dr Carmen Audera-Lopez
Technical Officer, Tobacco Free Initiative
Telephone: +63 (0)2 5289897
E-mail: auderalopezc@wpro.who.int

Mr James Rarick
Technical Officer, Tobacco Free Initiative
Mobile: +63 (0)9494230508
E-mail: rarickj@wpro.who.int

Mr Timothy O'Leary
Public Information Officer
Mobile: +63 (0)908 886 8738
E-mail: olearyt@wpro.who.int