Opening Remarks by Dr Shin Young-soo WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific at the Implementation of the WHO FCTC in the Western Pacific Region: Achievements and Challenges

COEX Centre, Seoul, Republic of Korea
14 November 2012

Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen:

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this special event organized by the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific.

This is the first time I've attended the Conference of the Parties.

It is amazing and humbling to see the amount of work that has gone into achieving an international consensus on tobacco control.

I am pleased to see several ministers of health from our Region. Of course, they are very active in the discussions.

We are also honoured to have the distinguished Dr Judith Mackay facilitating today's discussion.

Her work has inspired many in tobacco control.

At this session, we will highlight important achievements and progress in countries.

We will also talk about the challenges we face going forward.

There are 430 million smokers residing in the Western Pacific Region.

That is one-third of the world's smokers.

In comparison to the other five WHO regions, the Western Pacific has the greatest number of smokers and among the highest rates of male smoking.

The Region also has experienced the fastest increase of tobacco use among young people and women.

But what do all those numbers really mean?

They mean that two people die each and every minute from tobacco-related disease in the Region.

They mean that half of all the men, women and children in the Region are regularly exposed to harmful second-hand smoke at home and in public places.

To meet this health challenge, the resolve to fight tobacco is strong than in the Western Pacific Region.

We are still the only WHO region where 100% of eligible parties have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

But progress has been difficult.

Different countries are at different stages of fighting the tobacco epidemic. And the tobacco industry continues to battle against our successes.

Despite this resistance, smoking rates are falling more than half of the countries in the Region.

The plain packaging initiative has taken hold in the Region, reducing smoking's appeal to young people.

We are also proud of the new national tobacco control laws and smoke-free regulations recently enacted around the Region.

Other countries are even aiming to become completely tobacco-free.

Despite the anticipated challenges to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, all parties of our Region have stepped up and endorsed it.

It is a proud moment for me as WHO Regional Director to be able to work with them toward ratification of the protocol.

At this session we will listen to countries and the difficulties they face.

We will try to learn from the hard lessons of our fellow Member States.

We will hear specifically how to remove barriers to pass new tobacco control legislation and how to enforce stronger regulations.

The Western Pacific is the first Region to articulate a goal for reduction of smoking prevalence.

At the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in 2009, health ministers endorsed the Regional Action Plan for the Tobacco Free Initiative in the Western Pacific (2010-2014).

The plan sets a target for reduction of tobacco use prevalence by 10% from the most recent baselines.

This same indicator has since been adopted by the NCD global action plan.

So this is a perfect time to take stock of our achievements.

We can accelerate implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control while we work to ratify the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade of Tobacco Products.

I would like to congratulate all the countries for the progress they have made in the face of strong challenges.

Never give up or lose hope in what you are doing.

You are saving lives. And that is what counts.

Thank you.