Speech by Dr. Olivé on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day 2009
Dr. Jean-Marc Olivé, WHO Representative to Viet Nam
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the WHO Vietnam Country Office, I would like to express our sincere thanks to the Ministry of Health, HCM city People’s Committee and Hanoi School of Public Health for hosting the celebrations of World No Tobacco Day 2009 in Viet Nam. There is a Vietnamese proverb that goes, "One picture is worth more than a hundred words". This proverb captures perfectly this year’s World No Tobacco Day theme - "Tobacco Health Warnings".
The World Health Organization is calling on all governments to use pictorial health warning on tobacco products to warn people about the frightening health consequences of smoking. Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death. Globally, more than five million people die from the effects of tobacco every year - more than from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Up to half of all smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease. Second-hand smoke harms everyone who is exposed to it. Nevertheless, most people are unaware of the true extent of the harm that tobacco causes. In Vietnam tobacco kills more than 40,000 people each year.
Mean while, tobacco companies spend tens of millions of dollars every year luring new users and turning them into addicts and they use marketing ploys to keep current users from quitting. Tobacco companies use packaging and other advertising techniques to make tobacco appealing, while distracting consumers from the harsh reality of how tobacco kills.It is proven that warnings on packaging are an inexpensive and powerful way to show the truth about dangers caused by tobacco consumption.
Warnings that show pictures of the harm that tobacco causes are particularly effective at communicating risk and help people to quit or reduce smoking. Picture warnings convey a clear and immediate message, even to people who cannot read. They reduce the overall attractiveness of tobacco packages to potential users, who are mainly the teenagers or young adults.Evidence from many countries have provided facts about the effectiveness of pictorial health warnings
-In Canada, 58% of smokers said the pictorial health warnings made them think more about the health effects of smoking.
-In Brazil, 67% of smokers said the pictorial health warnings made them want to quit.
-In Singapore, 28% of smokers said the pictorial health warnings made them smoke fewer cigarettes.
-In Thailand, 44% of smokers said the pictorial health warnings made them "a lot" more likely to quit over the next month.Many countries in the world are implementing this innovative measure to protect the health of the public. As of this month 23 countries already have pictorial health warnings on cigarette packets. Many, many more countries are also in the process of designing health warnings or developing regulations.In ASEAN alone, four countries already have implemented pictorial health warnings.I am calling on this country’s government to act.
To protect the health of Vietnamese people - current and future generations - from the dangers of tobacco use, WHO asks you to:
• Issue a law that requires all tobacco products to display large picture warnings about the harm caused by tobacco
• Build on experience of other countries to develop the most effective warnings and implement them for the greatest possible impact.
• Ignore the claims of the tobacco industry. Tobacco companies oppose strong health warnings, particularly those with pictures. To support the government in implementing pictorial health warnings, individuals should also take action.
• Demand your right to know the truth — the whole truth — about the dangers of tobacco use and exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.
• And please let everyone know that you support picture warnings.Pictorial health warnings can be implemented at virtually no cost – but the benefits are great. In Viet Nam studies show that application of large pictorial health warnings could help save about 500 lives a year by 2023 and 750 lives a year by 2033.There are no excuses not to act. Let’s print pictorial health warnings and save lives.