PARTICIPANTS from 25 Western Pacific countries attending a regional meeting on the implementation of the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control were challenged by President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau to push towards a tobacco-free Pacific by 2025.
Citing the high medical costs associated with the care of people suffering from tobacco-related illnesses and high incidence of death, Ratu Epeli said putting a stop to smoking was critical.
"Over the past decades, we have witnessed tobacco's devastating effects on the health of the people in our Pacific society," he said.
"Our health experts advise that tobacco use is a behavioural risk factor for non-communicable diseases and it is now rated as the leading cause of preventable deaths in the region.
"Statistics reveal that as much as 71.5 per cent of the adult male population and as much as 50.8 per cent of adult females are daily smokers in some of our Pacific Island countries.
"You will all agree that there is simply no reason why our people in the Pacific should suffer needlessly from tobacco.
"This is why I challenge us all to scale-up Tobacco Control and Enforcement; and to persevere in our goal to achieve a tobacco-free Pacific by 2025."