If 1.3 million deaths annually due to cigarette smoking is not alarming enough, perhaps 150 deaths per hour globally can jolt people into thinking about quitting or not picking up the habit at all.

The figures are from the World Health Organization, which continues to push for the mandatory execution of ‘plain packaging’ for cigarettes.

The United Nations health agency strongly believes removing branding and promotional information from tobacco products and replacing these with graphic health warnings is still a very effective means to magnify the risks of smoking and discourage people from doing it.

Packaging with dull colours and using standardized fonts for the brand name has been shown to reduce its attraction for consumers, according to WHO.

WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia Poonam Khetrapal Singh underscored that tobacco use remains a major public health issue in the Southeast Asian region, citing 246 million people in 11 countries smoke cigarettes. Of equal concern is the 290 million people who use it in “smokeless forms,” she said during the celebration of World No Tobacco Day.

The agency has noted a decline of smoking levels in progressive economies. But as a result, cigarette manufacturers are turning to developing countries, including those in the Southeast Asian region, whose populations must resist the market presence.

Tobacco’s impact is beyond public health, Singh declared. It is a big hindrance to developing economies’ growth prospects and it imposes burdens on taxpayers and a country’s health system whose limited resources can be put to better use rather than addressing healthcare issues that result from smoking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco consumption has claimed an average of 6 million lives per year and with the current trend, further tobacco use puts at risk 8 million more lives annually in the next few decades.

Smoking is linked to several health conditions including erectile dysfunction, tuberculosis, diabetes, and immune system problems.
In Singapore, as early as 1971, general advertising for tobacco products have been banned in all media outlets. The Ministry of Culture appealed to popular destinations and bistros to cooperate with the government’s anti-smoking campaign.

Though 11 participant countries with the help of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control have deployed campaigns for tobacco control, people of different ages are still exposed to pro-tobacco messages. MIMS