Tobacco and Health

Countries cut smoking, but more action needed to meet 2025 target

New data shows a declining rate of tobacco use and an increase in numbers of nonsmokers. But governments need to intensify action to combat the tobacco industry and dramatically reduce consumption of tobacco products to, in turn, protect public health, according to the World Health Organization.

“Globally, tobacco use accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths, causing 87% of lung cancer deaths in men, and 70% of lung cancer deaths in women. If we don’t take action now, we will continue to suffocate under an enormous cloud of smoke, a cloud that impairs our vision and makes us unable to see the deadly consequences of tomorrow,” said H.H. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al-Nahayan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, opening the five-day 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, on 17 March.

The conference theme was Tobacco and Non-communicable Diseases, recognising for the first time that tobacco use in all its forms is the greatest risk factor contributing to the occurrence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer, cardiovascular problems, lung disease and diabetes. Tobacco use now causes one in six of all NCD deaths and up to half of current tobacco users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease.

According to the new online WHO Gobal Report on Trends in Tobacco Smoking, in 2010, there were 3.9 billion non-smokers aged 15 years and over in WHO Member States (or 78% of the 5.1 billion population aged 15+). This number is projected to rise to five billion (or 81% of the projected 6.1 billion population aged 15+) by 2025 if the current pace of tobacco cessation continues. This trend indicates countries are making inroads, but much greater action is needed to curb the tobacco epidemic if the global target to cut tobacco consumption by 30% by 2025 to reduce premature deaths from NCDs is to be met.

“In an ominous trend, in some countries the battle between tobacco and health has moved into the courts,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, who attended the conference. “Governments wishing to protect their citizens through larger pictorial warnings on cigarette packs or by introducing plain packaging are being intimidated by industry’s threats of lengthy and costly litigation. This is an effort to deprive governments of their sovereign right to legislate in the public interest. We will push back hard.”

A new study on global trends and projections for tobacco use published in The Lancet ahead of the WCTOH found that the prevalence of men smoking tobacco products has fallen in 125 countries between 2000 and 2010, and in 156 countries for women. However, based on current trends, only 37 countries are on track to achieve the 30% tobacco reduction target set out in the Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013-2020.

“The global movement against the tobacco epidemic is strong, and the downward trends in tobacco use are a testament to that fact,” says Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat. “We see many countries are taking steps to beat back the influence of the tobacco industry. But if we are to achieve targets set by governments to reduce tobacco consumption by 30% by 2025, intensified action will be needed to implement all the provisions of the WHO FCTC.”

Improving tobacco control is one of the keys to addressing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), namely lung and heart diseases, cancers and diabetes. The latest WHO global status report on NCDs states that 38 million lives were lost to NCDs in 2012, with nearly three quarters occurring in low- and middleincome countries, and 16 million (42%) being premature (people dying before the age of 70 years) - up from 14.6 million in 2000. Tobacco accounts for about one in 10 deaths, and up to half of current users will die from the effects of tobacco consumption: or six million deaths per year.

“Most of these premature deaths could have been prevented through action on tackling the four main risk factors – unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol and tobacco use,” says Dr Ala Alwan, Regional Director of WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean office. “By curbing access to and controlling, with a view to ending, the addictive use of tobacco, countries will witness a dramatic reduction in premature deaths from NCDs.”

Scientific highlights

Global burden of disease due to smokeless tobacco consumption: Analysis of surveys from 101 countries: (Abstract PD-763-19) Economic burden of tobacco-related diseases in India: Previous studies of the economic burden of tobacco-related diseases in India are out of date. This latest study projects the direct medical cost of treating tobacco-related diseases, indirect costs due to tobacco-related disease, and the indirect costs of premature deaths attributable to tobacco use.

Smoking among the poor and the impact on the economy and health in Bali: Indonesia has the third-largest number of smokers of any country, after China and India. This study provided new data on smoking patterns among people living in Bali’s slums and surrounding villages, showing high household expenditures on tobacco, leading to high rates of both noncommunicable and infectious diseases.

Effect of second-hand hookah smoke in hookah bar workers: Globalization is causing more youth to turn to alternative forms of tobacco, like shishah. This study presented results from an analysis of multiple measures of air pollution in the ambient air of hookah bars and the effects of such exposure on bar workers in New York City.

Tobacco use and social determinants in 30 Sub-Saharan African countries: analyses of national level population-based surveys. The UAE Paradox: Stricter tobacco control policies, but a stronger tobacco industry: Despite having progressive tobacco control policies, the UAE has high rates of tobacco us. This study presented an analysis of the tobacco industry in the UAE, drawing from data over 15 years on tobacco manufacturers, distributors, importers, duty-free shops, and suppliers.

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 Date of upload: 10th May 2015


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