JAKARTA - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat has put forward initiatives toward a "smoke-free ASEAN", lending much needed impetus to regional efforts to curb tobacco use in Southeast Asia.
Around 60 key ASEAN Secretariat officials and staff joined the orientation seminar on the 'Hazards of Tobacco Use and Exposure to Tobacco Smoke" officiated by ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan.
According to Dr Pitsuwan: "Tobacco use has become a health crisis but it is a crisis that is preventable; it is a crisis that needs tremendous attention and cooperation among all Member States and partners."
Other officials from the WHO Indonesia, Ministry of Health Indonesia and the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) provided technical input to the objective of the seminar to support regional efforts to arrest smoking and its toxic effects on individuals and society.
SEATCA Director Bungon Ritthiphakdee said that "ASEAN's backing is crucial, as all governments in the region are strengthening tobacco control policy and legislation."
He also noted that there are many challenges in Southeast Asia, including a strong tobacco industry lobby that can interfere in the drafting of more progressive policies and laws on tobacco control.
The memorandum calls staff and visitors to strictly enforce the "No-smoking" policy in all rooms, toilets, lobby and passageways.
"The health, safety and welfare" of all staff working in the ASEAN Secretariat Building was also emphasised.