The World Health Organisation (WHO) began a regional meeting for the Western Pacific Monday in South Korea, with the head of the United Nations agency saying that the economic losses from tobacco far outweigh its benefits.
'It is correct to say that tobacco as an industry brings income to countries but one has to do a full economic analysis. You also need to look at the other side of the equation,' Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO, was quoted as saying by South Korea's national Yonhap news agency.
'When you do that full evaluation, I'm sure the damage due to tobacco would be much greater than economic incomes from tobacco.'
Chan was speaking at a press conference at the start of the 58th WHO Western Pacific Regional Committee meeting taking place for five days on Jeju Island.
Chan also underlined her agency's 'very strong position' on tobacco control, urging members to implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, according to Yonhap.
The convention - the first global health treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO - is designed to reduce tobacco-related deaths and disease around the world.
To achieve this goal, it calls on signatories to take measures such as restrictions on tobacco advertising, clean indoor air controls as well as legislation to clamp down on tobacco smuggling.
At the Jeju meeting, more than 400 health officials from the agency's 37 regional member states are to discuss key Asia-Pacific health issues such as the threat of avian influenza to previously unaffected areas and new international health regulations governing the response to global health crisis, the WHO said.
Also on the agenda is the control of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, tobacco control and mental health as well as traditional medicine.