WHO expresses support for Australian anti-smoking moves

News release

MANILA , 30 April 2010 —Dr Shin Young-soo, World Health Organization Regional Director for the Western Pacific, today congratulated the Australian Government on "a major victory for public health" for its announcement of a comprehensive package to target smoking, including a ban on brand names on cigarette packs.

The Australian Government also announced a 25% increase in the excise tax on tobacco products that will increase the price of a pack by US$ 1.85 and will push the price to around US$ 18.50 a pack within three years. In most countries of the Western Pacific Region, a pack of cigarettes costs less than US$ 5. The cost of a pack of a popular brand in China is about US$ 2. In countries such as the Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Philippines and Viet Nam, a pack of a popular brand sells for less than US$ 1.

"Australia has again taken the lead in showing how political resolve can help put an end to countless deaths from tobacco use," Dr Shin said. "With higher prices, smokers will be discouraged from smoking. Young people will not be encouraged to start. The message is clear: the Australian Government is moving toward making any form of promotion of tobacco unacceptable."

Dr Shin said WHO supports Australia's efforts to reduce consumption by 6% and the number of smokers by 2% to 3%, or around 87 000 people. "Raising prices and regulating all forms of advertising are powerful tools for controlling the tobacco epidemic," Dr Shin said.

It is estimated that two people die every minute from a tobacco-related disease in the Western Pacific Region. More than 50% of young people aged 13–15 are exposed to second-hand smoke in public places, according to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey. Only half of all countries in the Western Pacific Region have successfully banned advertising, promotion and sponsorship. In many countries anti-tobacco laws are poorly enforced.

For more information, please contact Dr Susan Mercado, WHO Regional Adviser on Tobacco Free Initiative: tel: +632 5289894; mobile: + 63 (0) 928 5010241; email: mercados@wpro.who.int

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