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Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Asia's smoking addiction
A woman smokes a cigarette on a street in Hong Kong
Asian women are a key focus for tobacco advertisers
As many as 105 million young people in the Asia-Pacific region risk dying from smoking-related diseases, the World Health Organisation has warned.

And as many as 50,000 teenagers are taking up smoking every day, said the WHO's Philippines-based regional office.

Young Chinese man smoking
A third of young Chinese men are at risk
If that rate continues, a quarter of young people could die from lung cancer, heart disease and other smoking-related illness in later life, the report said.

The WHO is calling for tougher anti-smoking regulations across the region, currently among the weakest worldwide.

With the exception of Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand, the region has low taxes on cigarettes, poor regulations on advertising and almost no control on sponsorship, the WHO said.

"The industry is seeking a new generation of young smokers, to replace the millions who die from tobacco," said Dr Shigeru Omi, Regional Director for WHO's Western Pacific Region.

Loopholes

The WHO has won support from the International Olympic Committee and the football's governing body Fifa to make sports free from tobacco advertising, sponsorship, consumption and sales.

Young Japanese women aged 20 in traditional kimono dresses have a smoke after their coming of age ceremony
Young people are not heeding the warnings
The football World Cup, which starts in Japan and South Korea on Friday, will promote anti-smoking policies.

However, multinational tobacco companies are among the top 10 advertisers in several Asian countries, spending billions of dollars a year to promote cigarettes and sponsor sports events and pop concerts.

And the WHO warned that even where controls are in place, the companies are finding other ways of promoting their products. It cited the situation in Malaysia where tobacco companies are banned from advertising directly but can use brand names for varied non-tobacco products.

The WHO also warned that up to a third of Chinese men aged below 30 are likely to eventually die from smoking-related disease, backing up academic studies reported last year.

See also:

13 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Aug 01 | Health
16 Mar 00 | Crossing Continents
19 Nov 98 | Health
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