WHO on tobacco and world health

The World Health Organization (WHO) says smoking and tobacco uses the world’s number one cause of preventable death.

One billion people will die from tobacco-related causes this century unless actions protecting public health and combating tobacco-company marketing are taken. This was the conclusion earlier this month of a global study on tobacco use by WHO. Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of WHO, said countries will no longer be able to ignore the impact of tobacco use on public health.

One hundred million people died in the 20th century from tobacco-related causes. About five and a half million now die annually, one every six seconds. Nearly half the world’s children are exposed to pollution from second-hand smoke in their homes. Deaths are
rising exponentially as population grows and billions of dollars in marketing, banned in much of the developed world, are spent by tobacco companies to addict people in the less developed countries where 80% of deaths this century will occur.

Tobacco companies are also successfully targeting women and teens. Funding proven programs to change these trends would be cost-free to non-smokers, since governments already collect 500 times more in tobacco taxes than they spend on programs to reduce smoking and protect the non-smoking public,(therefore, governments are motivated more towards the money rather than to curb smokers or stop new nicotine habits from forming).

Since one of the most effective tools is raising tobacco taxes, substantial additional funds could be available, and as fewer people smoked, fewer public funds would be needed, also reducing health care and related economic costs totaling hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Higher taxes also reduce smoking among the most endangered group, the poor, who are made considerably more poor, hungry and at risk of disease by smoking, since addiction leads to a significant percentage of their income spent on tobacco.

A cost threshold is reached through taxation where poor and middle-income smokers are more likely to quit. Further, WHO tobacco expert Dr. Douglas Bettcher says nothing short of a total ban on smoking in public places and work places protects people from the dangers of second-hand smoke and helps convince smokers to quit.

In addition to effective monitoring of tobacco use world wide, WHO called for the following: Protecting people from tobacco smoke; offering help to quit tobacco use; warning people about the dangers of tobacco; enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and raising taxes on tobacco. These are the same measures the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has reported are effective. Go to www.who.int for more
information.

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