HONG KONG, 9 APRIL 2012 - A new WHO collaborating centre was named here today to help smokers quit and to reduce the heavy toll of tobacco-related deaths in the Western Pacific Region.

The WHO Collaborating Centre for Smoking Cessation and Treatment of Tobacco Dependence at the Hong Kong Department of Health will train health-care professionals, share information and test new methods.

"Hong Kong is a global leader in smoking cessation and treatment of tobacco dependence. With the establishment of this collaborating centre, we can create a regional training hub for smoking cessation," says WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo, who officiated at the ceremony with Hong Kong Director of Health Dr Lam Ping-Yan.

Hong Kong has much valuable experience in tobacco control, having already reduced adult smoking prevalence to about 11.1% from 23% in 1982, and shared its knowledge within China and beyond. Among the strategies that Hong Kong used to reduce its epidemic of tobacco use were raising taxes on tobacco products, banning tobacco advertisements and warning people about the dangers of tobacco use.

"Over the past two years, the Department of Health has trained more than 100 health-care personnel from Hong Kong (China), Macao (China) and mainland China in smoking cessation services," Dr Lam says. "We also opened our doors to tobacco control personnel from the Philippines, Malaysia and Viet Nam. We learned from our graduates that the courses greatly enhanced their skills, confidence and readiness in providing treatment to quitters."

Most WHO collaborating centres are research or academic institutions that the Director-General designates to carry out activities in support of WHO programmes. Currently, there are more than 800 collaborating centres in more than 80 Member States working with WHO in such other areas as nursing, occupational health, nutrition, mental health, health technologies and communicable and noncommunicable diseases.

This makes the fourth WHO collaborating centre for tobacco control in the Western Pacific, joining others in China, Japan and Singapore. The expertise of Hong Kong (China) could be particularly helpful in mainland China, which is home to approximately one-third of the world's more than 1 billion smokers.

"According to surveys, nine out of 10 smokers in China say they tried to quit in the past year but did not have any assistance. Hong Kong can provide that much-needed assistance," says Dr Shin. "We look forward to the day when the services and information on cessation will be integrated into health systems in all countries and available in every health centre or hospital. For every smoker who wants to quit in our Region, there should be a system to support their efforts."

Worldwide, tobacco use kills nearly 6 million people year, including more than
600 000 nonsmokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke.