South East- Asia Anti- Tobacco ( SEAAT) Flame

The New

light of Myanmar

Tuesday,  2  January, 2001

South East- Asia Anti-

Tobacco ( SEAAT) Flame

Tobacco consumption in various

forms, smoking in particular, has become the twentieth century’s epidemic. It

has been estimated that tobacco kills over 4 million people across the world. If

this trend is allowed to continue, the loss of human lives could exceed 10

million by the next decade with the majority occurring in the developing world.

Tobacco has thus become a greater preventable cause of death and disability than

any single disease and is emerging as a major health issue in this part of the


The South East Asia Anti-Tobacco (SEAAT) Flame was therefore launched in New

Delhi on the 7th of January 2000 by the World Health Organization in

collaboration with the respective Ministries of Health with the aim of

mobilizing countries in the South East Asia Region for tobacco control. 

It arrived in Myanmar on the 15th of December from Maldives after passing

through 11 countries of the Region, and will return to India on the 7th of

January 2001. The flame in many countries symbolizes, life, youth and victory of

good over evil. It also symbolizes knowledge which will enlighten us about the

hidden dangers of tobacco use. It will free many from tobacco dependence and

highlight the ability of humans to rise even from ashes to achieve their goals. 

The aim of this campaign is to stimulate and mobilize social action against

tobacco, to enlighten policy makers and the public on issues related to tobacco

use and to initiate and sustain a region-wide tobacco campaign against tobacco


This will promote not only health and well-being but stimulate social and

economic development as well, by reducing tobacco consumption and related harm.

Although the entire population is targeted, special focus is on policy makers,

and vulnerable groups such as youth and women. Involvement of youth and women is

essential for success of the campaign, as they are the prime targets of the

tobacco industry. 

Under the guidance of the National Health Committee, the Ministry of Health in

collaboration and co-ordination with other Ministries, non-governmental

organizations and local authorities, has orchestrated an impressive event to

welcome the flame and is conducting numerous activities to commemorate the

occasion both at national and local level among the four Townships in Yangon

Division where the flame stops over. 

At the National Level, various mass media communication channels, such as radio,

TV, newspapers, magazines, posters, pamphlets, stickers, were used to raise

health awareness about the dangers of tobacco use among the public.

 Essay competition were held among school children nation-wide and prizes

were distributed during the welcoming ceremony of the flame at the Institute of

Nursing in Yangon. 

In the 4 townships of Yangon D;vision, Lanmadaw, Thanlyin, Dagon Myothit South)

and Shwepyithar, where the flame stopped over, seminars, extempore talk

competition, quiz on related topics, exhibitions were held and prizes were


In the States and Divisions, similar anti-smoking activities are also being


All these events have been given a good media coverage throughout the country.

Anti-smoking campaign, however, is not new to this country. 

Myanmar for many years has been implementing a tobacco control programme based

on Elements of Comprehensive National Tobacco Control Programmes outlined in the

report by the Director-General of WHO, and subsequently adopted by the

Forty-eighth World Health Assembly. Elements that has already being implemented

include a national focal point to stimulate, support and co-ordinate tobacco

control activities. A national tobacco control programme and national

coordinating organization on “tobacco or health” for promotion and

education for smoking prevention is functioning so also is an effective

programme of promotion for smoking prevention and support for cessation of


 Effective measures against involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke in public

transport vehicles, public places and workplaces have already been undertaken.

Measures are in place to ensure that health care workers and institutions set a

good example by not smoking themselves, make their institutions smoke-free and

through their own training, counseling and advocacy activities emphasize the

benefits of a smoke free life. Trends in smoking and other forms of tobacco use,

tobacco related diseases, have been monitored and effectiveness of national

smoking control activities are being assessed by appropriate surveys and audit.

Research in relevant areas is also being conducted. 

Advocacy campaign is under way to increase tobacco taxes, to restrict tobacco

advertising promotion and sponsorship, and to adopt a legal requirement for

strong, varied health warnings on packages of cigarettes, although locally

manufactured cigarettes carry such warnings. 

Restriction of access of tobacco products including prohibition on sale of

tobacco products to young people, limitation of the permissible levels of tar

and nicotine in manufactured tobacco, mandatory reporting of the levels of toxic

constituents in manufactured tobacco products and to explore strategies to

provide economic alternatives to tobacco-growing for agriculture workers are

other issues which will also be advocated. 

Myanmar has also been working with International Agencies, National and

International NGOS, WHO and other member nations of the WHO on tobacco control. 

It has become increasingly realised that, because of the magnitude of the

problem created by tobacco use, and with the problem extending beyond the bounds

of public health and national boundaries, tobacco control in individual

countries would be more successful if an effective mechanism, such as a Frame

Convention or an International Treaty exist among member states to co-ordinate

and collaborate national tobacco programmes more effectively. 

Myanmar has been actively involved in the process which will eventually lead to

the signing of such a treaty, the WHO Framework Convention On Tobacco Control (FCTC),

among member states in 2003. Delegates from Myanmar has attended two working

group meetings on PCTC and one session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body

in Geneva, in October this year. It is also noteworthy that Myanmar was a

recipient of three WHO Tobacco or Health Medal awards for dedication,

commitment, and outstanding work towards tobacco control. 

Science writer Theit Pan Hmu Tin in 1991, Professor U Aung, Cardiologist, and

Project Manager of the Cardiovascular Disease Control Project, Ministry of

Health in 1992, and the Institute of Nursing, Ministry of Health in 1994

received the awards, respectively.


We should not, however, rest on our laurels but continue to work together in

harmony with various sectors of the society to stamp out this modern-day scourge

facing mankind. It is hoped that the flame will ignite and strengthen a

sustained tobacco control campaign not only in this country but in all of the

countries within this Region in order that we reach our goal of a tobacco-free



: Professor U Aung