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Speech by SHW


Following is a speech by the Secretary for Health and Welfare,Dr E K Yeoh, at the Opening Ceremony of the Hospital Authority's Community Health Day today (May 1):

Dr Lo, Dr Ho, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my honour today to have been invited to officiate the Opening Ceremony of the Hospital Authority's Community Health Day, which marks the official launching of its smoking counseling and cessation hotline and programmes.

Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of death in the world and in Hong Kong. The World Health Organisation estimated that tobacco killed 4.2 million people per year. In Hong Kong, its claims about 5,500 lives and accounts for millions of dollars in smoking-related medical expenditures each year. At present about 15 per cent of our population, or some 800,000 people, smoke. According to the findings of research studies, half of these people will be killed prematurely by smoking if they continue to smoke. Apart from active smoking, the health risks of passive smoking is also well-proven. Secondhand smoke, with more than 40 carcinogenic substances, can lead to lung cancer and heart disease under prolonged exposure. Therefore, any reduction in our smoking prevalence will result in better protection of both smokers and non-smokers from the avoidable morbidity and mortality.

International data have time and again confirmed that helping people quit smoking can yield significant health and economic benefits to the community. To this end, we have provided funding to the Hospital Authority to launch ten hospital and community-based smoking counseling and cessation programmes this year. Each of these programmes will provide services through telephone hotline, telephone counseling and smoking cessation sessions. Overseas studies have revealed that such systematic approach in smoking cessation intervention could increase the success rate by 25 to 30 per cent.

A recent Household Survey conducted in Hong Kong indicated that among the current daily smokers, 41.8 per cent reported that they had tried to stop smoking but failed. These statistical figures remind us that there are plenty of smokers out there who want to quit very badly, but do not know where to look for assistance. With the inception of these ten smoking cessation programmes, we will be putting in place well-publicised, appropriately-staffed and carefully designed quit programmes that can provide effective, user-friendly services to smokers in a sustainable manner.

The launching of ten new smoking cessation programmes by the Hospital Authority today is indeed an important milestone for Hong Kong in its provision of a coordinated cessation service to smokers. Furthermore, these new services, coupled with our concerted efforts in tobacco control legislation, publicity and public education, would be able to further contain the proliferation of smoking epidemic in Hong Kong. As a result, the community as a whole can enjoy a cleaner and healthier living environment.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to staff members of the Hospital Authority who have devoted their time and energy in making the launching of these smoking cessation programmes and today's Community Health Day a success.

Thank you.

End/Wednesday, May 1, 2002


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