Protecting children and families from tobacco and tobacco-related NCDs in the Western Pacific: good practice examples from Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore.

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are generally considered diseases of adulthood, but NCD risk factors like tobacco use often are taken up during childhood and adolescence, and second-hand smoke exposure affects child survival and development.

METHODS

At a regional meeting of the Asia Pacific Child and Family Health Alliance for Tobacco Control, members reviewed existing good practices of child-focused tobacco control approaches using health promotion strategies. These interventions were implemented nationally in Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.

RESULTS

Three good practice national examples were identified that focused on creating supportive tobacco-free environments and upgrading cessation skills among paediatricians. These country examples highlight strategic areas to protect children and families from the harms of tobacco, as part of NCD prevention and control. Training paediatricians in brief cessation advice has enabled them to address tobacco-using parents. Fully enforcing smoke-free public areas has led to an increase in smoke-free homes. The Tobacco Free Generation is a tobacco control 'endgame' strategy that taps into a social movement to deglamorize tobacco use and empower youth born in and after year 2000 to reject tobacco and nicotine addiction.

CONCLUSION

Tobacco control is pivotal in the fight against NCDs; health promotion strategies to protect children and youth from tobacco have a critical role to play in NCD prevention and control. Frontline health workers, including primary care paediatricians, need to step up and actively advocate for full implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, including tobacco tax increases and smoke-free areas, while monitoring patients and their parents for tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, preventing adolescent smoking uptake, and offering cessation support. A life-course approach incorporating child-focused efforts to prevent initiation of smoking and second-hand smoke exposure with measures promoting cessation among parents will offer the greatest chance of overcoming future tobacco-related NCD burden.

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