Asia Pacific Mayors Commit to Advancing Tobacco Control and NCD Prevention

Mayors and health officials representing 21 cities from 10 Asia Pacific countries concluded a two-day tobacco control conference with a commitment to introduce and enforce policies proven to reduce tobacco use within their jurisdictions.

The Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Tobacco Control [AP-CAT] conference was hosted in Singapore 4 – 5 September, and was organised by The Union and Indonesia’s Ministry of Health. Attendees were from Indonesia, Singapore, Viet Nam, Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, Timor Leste, Lao PDR, Nepal and Cambodia.  AP-CAT was formed in 2016 to create a network and forum for subnational leaders working to advance tobacco control and NCD prevention. Smoke-free public places, advertising bans and policy support to national government in improving taxation on tobacco and other harmful products are within their remit.

‘Together we can improve the health of our people by taking a united stand on tobacco control,’ said Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Health, Communications and Information, Singapore ‘Singapore has adopted a multi-pronged approach to tobacco control, which includes legislation, taxation, public education and helping smokers to quit.’

The Asia Pacific region has some of the highest rates of tobacco use in the world. The tobacco industry aggressively targets countries with weak tobacco control laws to recruit new generations of users through powerful marketing campaigns. AP-CAT members are focused on the World Health Organization’s MPOWER series of policies – which are proven to reduce tobacco use across populations. AP-CAT’s membership has doubled in the last year, demonstrating the growing political will for tobacco control at subnational level. The Union Asia Pacific office is secretariat for the alliance.

‘Despite the challenges, we are committed to expanding our work on smoke-free implementation at the sub-national level, enlarging of graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging to at least to 75 percent, and banning all types of tobacco advertising and promotion with a national law,’ said Dr H. Subuh, Director General of Disease Prevention and Control for the Indonesian Government. He said the Ministry of Health was also working to raise taxes on tobacco through coordination with the Ministry of Finance.

‘Tobacco control is a best buy for public health, whether at the national or sub-national level,’ said AP-CAT chair Dr Bima Arya Sugiarto, mayor of Bogor, Indonesia. ‘In Bogor city there has been no loss of revenue following the ban on tobacco advertising. In fact, contrary to the tobacco industry’s claims, there has been a significant increase.’

‘Our collective action will bring public health solutions to the people,’ said AP-CAT co-chair Francis Anthony S Garcia, mayor of Balanga city, Philippines. ‘We will work together to prevent tobacco industry interference in these life-saving policies.’

The meeting concluded with a call to action outlining core recommendations for advancing tobacco control.  The alliance also committed to broadening their remit – to work on reducing non-communicable diseases. It is now named the Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Tobacco Control and Non-Communicable Disease Prevention.

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