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May 30 2021

Commit to Quit is the theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day observed on 31 May. It is on this day that governments, non-governmental organizations, and communities join to raise awareness about the harmful tobacco use and the benefits of quitting, for individuals, communities, government, and country.

Exercising the theme for 2021 will have numerous immediate and long-term health benefits for smokers as well as decreasing the risk of many diseases related to second-hand smoke to those around them. For example, within a few weeks of quitting smoking, circulation improves and lung function increases. Within 10 years, the lung cancer death rate is approximately half that of a smoker.

It is reported that 26.3% of adults aged 15 and above in Western Pacific region, are current tobacco users.  Surveys in the Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) show that approximately half of the adult population aged 25-64 years, are current smokers in countries such as Kiribati, Tokelau, Nauru and Wallis and Futuna and, the average years of smoking is approximately 20 years for countries like American Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue, and Vanuatu.

The Pacific Community’s (SPC) Public Health Division (PHD), in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) and development partners, provide technical support to member countries to positively influence policy dialogue to respond to the Pacific Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) crisis and support national efforts for tobacco control including to ‘Commit to quit’. 

Dr Si Thu Win Tin, team leader for NCD Prevention and Control Programme at PHD said, “SPC is committed to protect Pacific communities from the harmful effects of tobacco through strengthening policy and regulatory mechanisms and empowerment through evidence-based information and interventions to commit to quit smoking and using tobacco products”.

The Pacific Monitoring Alliance for NCD Action (MANA) monitors the progress of the Pacific NCD Roadmap, including tobacco control recommendations and reports that smoking cessation support of some kind is available in 18 PICTs to date.

Most PICTs now have health promotion, policy, and regulation measures to ensure the public is well informed of the impacts of tobacco on health, regulations to control advertising and promotion of tobacco, tobacco sales and licensing, and taxation measures to control price of tobacco products. Despite some achievements, there is a need to further strengthen tobacco control efforts in PICTs to achieving Tobacco Free Pacific Goals 2025 and global NCD targets.

To scale up NCD actions, SPC continues to work in collaboration with development partners and is developing the Pacific Legislative Framework to assist member countries to develop legislations to control NCD risk factors, including tobacco use.