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WHO calls for action to stamp out tobacco use

By Sally Robertson, BScMay 31, 2017

According to a first-ever WHO report on tobacco, stamping out its use could save millions of people’s lives, reduce levels of poverty and decrease damage to the environment.

Credit:Dziewul/Shutterstock.com

On World No Tobacco Day 2017, WHO will be demonstrating the threat tobacco poses to development across the globe and encouraging governments to introduce measures to control tobacco use.

Tobacco use accounts for over 7 million deaths worldwide every year and the cost to governments and households for lost productivity and healthcare is more than US$ 1.4 trillion.

According to the report, impacts on the environment include smoke emissions accounting for thousands of tons of human carcinogens, toxins and greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere; the disposal of up to 10 billion smoked cigarettes per day and cigarette butts accounting for up to 40% of the waste retrieved during environmental clean-ups.

The effects on national and regional development include up to 14% of children involved in tobacco farming being prevented from attending school; spending on tobacco products accounting for more than 10% of household expenditure in the poorest households and tobacco use accounting for 16% of deaths from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

Director-General of WHO, Margaret Chan, says tobacco threatens us all: “Tobacco exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity, contributes to poor household food choices, and pollutes indoor air.”

By taking robust tobacco control measures, governments can safeguard their countries’ futures by protecting tobacco users and non-users from these deadly products, generating revenues to fund health and other social services, and saving their environments from the ravages tobacco causes,”

Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO

Actions that WHO is urging governments to take include banning the marketing and advertising of tobacco, introducing plain packaging of tobacco products, ensuring smoke-free environments in indoor public places and workplaces and raising excise taxes.

Director of the Department for the Prevention of NCDs, Douglas Bettcher, warns that tobacco is a major barrier to development worldwide. The health problems and deaths it causes drive poverty, leaving households with no one to earn and diverting the little money available to the purchase of tobacco rather than food and educational items. It also forces many individuals to pay for medical care.

“Action to control it will provide countries with a powerful tool to protect their citizens and futures,” concludes Bettcher.

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