Fight against smoking boosted as tobacco control conference closes

PHOTO: Fight against smoking boosted as tobacco control conference closes

SINGAPORE - The showcasing of ideas at the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) has moved the fight against tobacco a step ahead, said local delegates who attended the five-day programme.

The 15th WCTOH, held in Singapore, concludes today after hosting 2,600 delegates, experts and policy-makers from over 100 countries in an exchange of anti-tobacco ideas for each country to be inspired by best practices from around the globe.

For Singapore's next step, the Government will explore the ideas shared at the conference and consider adapting solutions that work effectively in the local context, said Mr Ang Hak Seng, Chief Executive Officer of the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

During the conference, Singaprore also shared its experience with graphic health warnings, taxation and smoke-free bans to encourage smokers to quit the habit.

While many of the ideas discussed during the conference focused on the better implementation of these top-down solutions, Singapore expanded this dialogue by sharing ideas on a ground-up social movement such as grassroots movements and support structures, Mr Ang said.

Mr Ang expressed pleasure at many countries supporting such a bottom-up movement to de-normalise smoking, as well as sharing Singapore's vision of bringing national smoking prevalence levels to below 10 per cent.

Not only for Singapore, the conference appears to have sparked ideas in various delegates from all over the world.

A delegate from the African nation of Burundi, Mr Roger Ciza, a 29-year-old medical student, said the conference had given him a chance to see the scale of tobacco control efforts all the way from Singapore to Australia.

"I was also able to learn about programmes closer to home, in my own neighbour country of Uganda, which I was unaware of, even though we are located in the same region in East Africa," he said.

For academics, advocates and policy-makers, the conference offered a strong message to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the fight for smoke-free lives.

"This is a landmark conference because of the strong emphasis by the WHO's Director-General on addressing the tobacco industry factor," said Ruth Malone, professor and chair of the department of social and behavioural sciences at the Centre for Tobacco Control, Research and Education at the University of California in San Francisco.

While it has been present in other conferences, this conference has brought it to the foreground and clearly outlined the direction countries need to go to end the tobacco epidemic, she added.