Governments in Southeast Asia urged by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to beware of the tobacco industry's interference in tobacco control programme by targeting the youths through increased advertising budgets in several countries.
On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day May 31 (Thursday), the WHO said that as countries move to meet their obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the tobacco industry is becoming more aggressive in its attempts to undermine the treaty by acting against the policies contained in it.
"The industry is targeting the youth through increased advertising budgets in several countries of the WHO Southeast Asia Region. One in ten school students are offered free samples of tobacco products," the WHO said in a message.
The tobacco industry has sued central and local governments over the pictorial warnings on cigarette packets, claiming that they infringe on the industry's rights to use their legally-registered brands and freedom of speech.
The Global Adult Tobacco Survey shows that health warnings are effective and a large number of tobacco users noticed the warnings and thought of quitting.
"Governments must protect people's health from tobacco use and be vigilant about the tobacco industry's interference in tobacco control measures," said Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO regional director for Southeast Asia.
According to the WHO, India and Indonesia are among the top ten tobacco leaf producers in the world. In addition, the region is one of the largest producers of smokeless tobacco products.
Ninety percent of global smokeless tobacco users live in Southeast Asia. The sale of smokeless tobacco products in India increased by over 25 percent between 2005 and 2010, it added.