JUNE 26, 2007
 (STAR) - Scientific evidence has pointed to 100 percent smoke-free environments as the only proven way to protect the health of all people from the effects of second-hand tobacco smoke (SHS).

Yet very few countries that ban smoking in indoor areas actually police the ban despite the fact that there are large and immediate health benefits associated with such smoking restrictions.

While most countries have begun to reclaim clean air as a social norm, legislators in some have been slow to change or enforce new smoking bans. In the Asia-Pacific, for instance, many men commonly give cigarettes as business gifts, and there is often no age limit on who may buy them.

Although addiction to the pleasure of smoking has gripped smokers across Asia, making smoke-free environments a distant dream for many nations, there is now an answer for many smokers with a new smoking cessation product being launched across the region called varenicline.

Varenicline is an innovative solution and a new class of treatment designed to help motivated quitters reach their goal of quitting.

It selectively binds to the nicotinic receptors in the brain to potentially relieve the craving and withdrawal symptoms while at the same time blocking the reinforcing effects of nicotine.

Giving up smoking is highly effective in preventing death from lung cancer and can reduce the risk of dying from the disease by up to 70 percent.

In addition, research from the Asia-Pacific region confirms that cigarette smoking substantially increases the risk of dying from lung cancer, and importantly highlights the continuing popularity of cigarette smoking across large parts of Asia, including China, where the harmful effects of smoking are still not widely appreciated.

Professional advice, coupled with pharmacotherapy, is a cost-effective way to increase tobacco cessation rates internationally. Smoking cessation programs, which are especially cost-effective when compared to other commonly sponsored and subsidized medical interventions, should strongly be considered for implementation by public health officials.

Although many smokers want to quit, most cannot succeed without help. Varenicline addresses both the addiction and the “pleasure” of smoking and provides motivated quitters with new hope to stop smoking. This new smoking cessation product has the potential to reduce the health burden generated by smoking in Asia.

A product of Pfizer Inc., Varenicline received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration as an aid to smoking cessation in May 2006.

In the European Union, it received marketing authorization in September 2006 for use as a smoking cessation aid. It has also been granted regulatory approval by the Bureau of Food and Drug (BFAD) for use in the Philippines.

Pfizer said it is committed to help people improve their health by discovering and developing innovative medicines such as varenicline.

Pfizer’s search for new treatments spans hundreds of research projects across 18 therapeutic areas. Approximately 13,000 scientists and support staff work in nine research and development facilities in five countries to discover new medicines.

In 2006, Pfizer invested about $7.566 billion in R&D, the largest investment in R&D by a private biomedical research organization.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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