The World Health Organization (WHO) called Friday for an all-out war against tobacco use in Asia, with one of its officials calling smoking a 'deadly epidemic'.
Concluding a five-day conference on key health issues for Asia, the UN agency also warned that the number of patients with mental and neurological disorders in many countries in the Asian Pacific region is increasing while their treatment leaves much to be desired.
Shigeru Omi, WHO's regional director for the Western Pacific, told the conference on South Korea's Jeju Island that a few member states already have met the requirements of the agency's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and that more are making good progress in implementing the convention's provisions.
"No country will be alone when they face down the tobacco industry and those who want to protect the continued spread of this deadly epidemic," Omi was quoted as saying by WHO. "There is strength in numbers."
He repeated that the region has one-third of the world's smokers, its highest percentage of male smokers and the fastest increase of smoking among children and young women.
He also criticized many countries in the region for not putting mental health high on the agenda. As a result, he said, resources are scarce and difficult to access.
"Resource allocation is less than 1 per cent of the total health budget in half of the countries and areas in the region," he added.
A WHO global project found that among patients with mental disorders in less developed countries, as many as 85 percent had received no treatment in the previous 12 months.