(Hanoi -14 September 2010) - Tobacco control and other health advocates from no less than 15 countries around the Southeast Asian and Western Pacific regions, North America and Europe are in Hanoi, Vietnam today to September 16, 2010 for a regional workshop to strengthen capacity for health promotion and tobacco control through sustainable funding mechanisms such as dedicated tobacco taxes.
The Vietnam Steering Committee on Smoking and Health (VINACOSH) is co-hosting the meeting with the World Health Organization’s Western Pacific Regional Office (WHO-WPRO) and the Bangkok-based Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).
While there are global commitments and national laws in place in many countries to implement Article 6 of the WHO-Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), that is, a global convention to use effective tobacco tax structures to reduce tobacco use, in many countries, the coming experts note, there is a need to support and strengthen best practices, and raise the capacity and cooperation between governments and civil society by initiating the establishment of more health promotion funds (HPF) for countries which are equipped and can already implement such programs.
Towards these ends, the delegates, headlined by government officials from Vietnam, the WHO, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), participants from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Philippines, Malaysia, Mongolia, Samoa, Tonga and Vietnam, will learn from, and work with existing HPF’s from around the world to develop tools and mechanisms that can strengthen the legal, legislative, financial, and programmatic environments for tobacco control on the regional and national levels via the establishment of new HPF’s.
Dr. Luong Ngoc Khue, Director of the Department of Medical Service Administration and VINACOSH, Ministry òf Health says Vietnam, as co-host, is eager to learn from the international experts, and from national experiences, as the country is fully committed to forming Vietnam’s own Tobacco Control and Health Promotion Foundation, in line with its commitments to the WHO-FCTC.
SEATCA’s Southeast Asia Initiative on Tobacco Tax (SITT) Director, Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo said experience from countries with HPF’s demonstrate how “societies and governments can and should utilize revenues from tobacco and other ‘sin taxes’ to fight for the health of their citizens.”
SEATCA runs the (SITT), which encourages ASEAN governments to adopt more progressive tobacco tax policies to lower smoking prevalence, while increasing government revenues that can further assist national health programs.
There already exist a number of successful HPF’s throughout the region and the world. Thailand’s and Singapore’s HPF were established as early as 2001, and are fully funded by ‘sin taxes’ collected from producers and importers of tobacco and alcohol.
The Thaihealth Promotion Foundation, an autonomous agency, and the first to be established in the ASEAN region, supports health promotion programs in Thailand by, among other things, strengthening smoking cessation programs and supporting government advocacy campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of tobacco use.
The Singapore Health Promotion Board similarly empowers its residents through health promotion and disease prevention programs, especially in informing citizens about smoking-related diseases and programs they avail of to quit smoking.
Other Health Promotion Foundations and organizations lending their experience and expertise to the workshop are the Swiss Health Promotion Foundation, Vichealth and Healthway in Australia, the Malaysian, Mongolian and Tongan Health Promotion Boards, Nossal Institute for Global Health, De La Salle University (Philippines), La Trobe University and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“Health promotion boards or foundations are vital to helping governments meet national commitments to the WHO-FCTC,” says Dr. Susan Mercado, regional adviser of the WHO’s Tobacco-Free Initiative. “Among other benefits, they bring governments and civil societies together in partnership to bridge gaps and hurdle challenges in the implementation of genuine tobacco tax reforms.”