WHO updates its fact sheet on Tobacco (1 May 2016)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its fact sheet on tobacco.

Key Messages:

Tobacco kills up to half of its users- 6 million each year, of whom more than 5 million deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while more than 600 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to secondhand smoke.

Nearly 80% of the world’s more than 1 billion smokers live in low and middle-income countries.

Only 1 in 3 countries, representing one third of the world’s population, monitors tobacco use by repeating nationally representative youth and adult surveys at least once every 5 years.

There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke:

  • In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it causes sudden death. In pregnant women, it causes low birth weight.
  • Almost half of children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke in public places.
  • Second-hand smoke causes more than 600 000 premature deaths per year.
  • In 2004, children accounted for 28% of the deaths attributable to second-hand smoke.

Among smokers who are aware of the dangers of tobacco, most want to quit. Counselling and medication can more than double the chance that a smoker who tries to quit will succeed.

Hard-hitting anti-tobacco advertisements and graphic pack warnings – especially those that include pictures – reduce the number of children who begin smoking and increase the number of smokers who quit.

Bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship can reduce tobacco consumption.

  • A comprehensive ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship could decrease tobacco consumption by an average of about 7%, with some countries experiencing a decline in consumption of up to 16%.
  • Only 29 countries, representing 12% of the world’s population, have completely banned all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
  • Around 1 country in 3 has minimal or no restrictions at all on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Tobacco taxes are the most cost-effective way to reduce tobacco use, especially among young and poor people. A tax increase that increases tobacco prices by 10% decreases tobacco consumption by about 4% in high-income countries and about 5% in low- and middle-income countries.

It is estimated that 1 in every 10 cigarettes and tobacco products consumed globally is illicit.

Eliminating illicit trade in tobacco will reduce the harmful consumption of tobacco by restricting availability of cheap, unregulated alternatives and increasing overall tobacco prices. Critically, this will reduce premature deaths from tobacco use and raise tax revenue for governments.

Useful Links:

Link to the updated fact sheet:


Link to Frequently Asked Questions on Plain Packaging (this year’s World No Tobacco Day theme):


Link to WHO Guide on Plain Packaging of tobacco products:


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