WHO centre to help smokers quit is launched
Medical professionals from across the region will learn the lessons of Hong Kong's success in getting smokers to quit the habit with the launch of the World Health Organisation's first international centre for collaboration on smoking cessation.
Hong Kong was chosen to host the centre, which brings together experts from different countries to discuss ideas, in recognition of the government's success in helping smokers quit, said Dr Shin Young-soo, the WHO's regional director for the Western Pacific.
'The WHO has to learn from the Hong Kong government,' Shin said. 'We look forward to sharing good practice and research to save lives from the tobacco epidemic.'
WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan Fung Fu- chun, a former director of health for the city, last October praised Hong Kong's work in the fight against tobacco, saying it had done 'extremely well'.
Over the past two years, the Department of Health has trained more than 100 health care professionals from Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland in helping smokers to quit.
The new centre will train 100 doctors, nurses and social workers each year from across China and Southeast Asia, said Dr Raymond Ho Lei-ming, head of the department's Tobacco Control Office.
One of its key targets will be to improve help for smokers on the mainland, after a survey there showed that nine out of 10 mainland smokers who tried to quit in the last year found no help available.
The new centre will also co-ordinate smoking cessation services provided locally by public hospitals, medical schools and non-governmental organisations.
The centre in Wan Chai is the fourth collaboration centre on tobacco control in the region, with others covering different areas of expertise already up and running in Japan, Singapore and on the mainland.
A mix of higher taxes, social factors and an effective anti-tobacco campaign has seen the share of Hongkongers aged 15 and above who smoke drop to 11.1 per cent, down from 23 per cent in 1982 - one of the lowest rates in the developed world.