Asia Pacific Mayors Alliance Summit in Singapore reinforces commitment to tobacco control and NCD prevention

The third summit of the Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Tobacco Control and NCD Prevention (AP-CAT), for which The Union is the secretariat, took place this week (4-6 December) in Singapore. The meeting aimed to build strong political commitment, identify new partnership opportunities, and devise sustainable, high-impact methods to fight tobacco use and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Asia Pacific Region.

Asia Pacific has some of the highest rates of smoking in the world. Tobacco use is one of the five major risk factors for NCDs, along with alcohol consumption, inadequate physical activity, unhealthy diet and air pollution.

Subnational government representatives from 12 countries – Indonesia, Viet Nam, Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, Timor-Leste, Laos, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Singapore – gathered to discuss how to best overcome the considerable challenges to tobacco control in the region and to improve policies that reduce NCDs and tobacco use.

José Luis Castro, Executive Director of The Union, in his welcome address delivered at the opening ceremony of the AP-CAT Summit on 4 December, urged the delegation of mayors and local government officials to continue to push back against the tobacco industry.

He said: “Tobacco use is the most alarming risk factor for diseases, causing millions of deaths every year and contributing to the enormous burden of NCDs all over the world. The public health community is in a constant battle with the tobacco industry who are mainly targeting young people and trying to weaken public health efforts.

“We need leaders who can stand up to the tobacco industry and serve the best interest of the people by preventing industry interference in public health policymaking. We saw national leaders come together at the UN General Assembly last September and commit to implementing the Framework Convention without any tobacco industry interference. We need leaders who are champions for health to make this commitment a reality.”

José Luis Castro also participated in a panel discussion on the role of political leadership in NCD prevention and tobacco control, alongside Members of Parliament from Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Viet Nam. José shared The Union’s experience in launching the Global TB Caucus, a movement of parliamentarians from around the world focused on ending TB, as a potential model for politicians working together for tobacco control and NCD prevention.  

AP-CAT serves as a network and forum for subnational leaders working to advance tobacco control and NCD prevention. Their focus includes smoke-free public places, advertising bans and policy support to national governments to improve taxation on tobacco and other harmful products. This regional alliance, which was established in 2016 by representatives from 12 cities in the Asia Pacific, has since grown to include 40 members from 12 countries.

The AP-CAT Summit is hosted by The Union, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Indonesia and features panel discussions, working group meetings and networking events that focus on topics including political leadership, translating policy into practice and developing city-level action plans for tobacco control and NCD prevention for 2019.