City's anti-smoking efforts win high praise from WHO official Hong Kong will be a model for the Western Pacific region if it bans misleading terms on cigarette packets in a further step to control tobacco, a WHO regional official said yesterday. 'The Hong Kong government is at the cutting edge of tobacco control,' said Burke Fishburn, a scientist and co-ordinator of the Tobacco Free Initiative at the World Health Organisation's Western Pacific office. 'We know the Hong Kong government has the public interest at heart and we hope for success. If it is successful, it will provide yet another model for our region. What Hong Kong is doing by trying to ban these misleading terms is cutting-edge.' Mr Fishburn said that while Philip Morris had volunteered to drop terms like 'light' for its cigarette brands in the city, 'bans on misleading terms, bans on advertising and promotion should not be voluntary, they should be legislated'. 'We know that voluntary restrictions do not work,' he said. 'The tobacco industry is noted as potential saboteurs of tobacco control and we need to be very sceptical, very cynical about what the tobacco industry wants to do about tobacco control.' Chronic non-communicable diseases were the top killers of Chinese, accounting for about 80 per cent of total deaths, rising from 73.8 per cent in 1991 to 80.9 per cent in 2000. Tobacco use was responsible for a large percentage of these deaths, Mr Fishburn said. Robert Beaglehole, director of the WHO Department of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion at its Geneva headquarters, said the pandemic of non-communicable diseases had the potential to overwhelm countries' health systems. 'Lifestyle, tobacco use and physical activities are extremely important and making sure that our children grow up in an environment in which it is normal to eat fruit and vegetables and it is abnormal to drink sweetened drinks and snack foods,' he said. At the conference, Thomas Tsang Ho-fai, a consultant at the Centre for Health Protection of Hong Kong's Department of Health, said there was increasing obesity among schoolchildren, and so the government aimed to create a conducive environment for healthy eating. Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok said earlier this week on the sidelines of the conference that the administration intended to present the amended anti-smoking legislation for second and third readings at the Legislative Council next month. 'We are not just banning indoor smoking - legislators want to expand it to areas where there will be substantial numbers of people together like transport interchanges, some public parks, sports facilities and beaches,' he said.