The World No Tobacco Day is observed on May 31st every year. Tobacco use continues to be a major public health issue across the WHO South-East Asia Region with nearly 246 million people in the Region's 11 countries continuing to smoke tobacco and just below 290 million using it in smokeless forms.
WHO's South-East Asia Region comprises the following 11 Member States: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
"The message isn't getting through: Tobacco kills. A good way to amplify it and disrupt the psychology of tobacco consumption is making the plain packaging of tobacco products - also known as standardized packaging - mandatory. Plain packaging means branding and promotional information is removed from tobacco packaging and replaced by graphic health warnings, dull color combinations, a brand name and a product and/or manufacturer's name in standardized font. The aesthetic impact of plain packaging is significant, with studies showing that it has tangible effect on the desirability of tobacco products," said Dr Poonam K Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.
As smoking levels decline in high-income countries tobacco companies are increasingly relying on market presence in developing economies, including those of the South-East Asia Region.
"This presence must be resisted. Tobacco's impact goes beyond public health, stymieing the growth prospects of developing economies and burdening taxpayers and health systems whose finite resources could be better used elsewhere," she added.