WHO updates fact sheet on tobacco (16 May 2017)

Ahead of World No Tobacco Day (31 May), the World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its fact sheet on tobacco.

Key Messages:

Tobacco kills up to half of its users.

Tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year. More than 6 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 890 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand 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 are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer.

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 890 000 premature deaths per year.
  • In 2004, children accounted for 28% of the deaths attributable to second-hand smoke.

Few people understand the specific health risks of tobacco use. For example, a 2009 survey in China revealed that only 38% of smokers knew that smoking causes coronary heart disease and only 27% knew that it causes stroke.

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.

Graphic warnings can persuade smokers to protect the health of non-smokers by smoking less inside the home and avoiding smoking near children.

Mass media campaigns can also reduce tobacco consumption by influencing people to protect non-smokers and convincing youths to stop using tobacco.

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.

Even so, high tobacco taxes is a measure that is rarely implemented.

Tobacco tax revenues are on average 269 times higher than spending on tobacco control, based on available data.

It is estimated that 1 in every 10 cigarettes and tobacco products consumed globally is illicit. The illicit market is supported by various players, ranging from petty peddlers to organized criminal networks involved in arms and human trafficking.

Tax avoidance (licit) and tax evasion (illicit) undermine the effectiveness of tobacco control policies, particularly higher tobacco taxes. These activities range from legal actions, such as purchasing tobacco products in lower tax jurisdictions, to illegal ones such as smuggling, illicit manufacturing and counterfeiting.

Useful Links:

Link to the updated fact sheet:

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs339/en/

Link to WHO’s No Tobacco Day 2017 campaign page:

http://www.who.int/campaigns/no-tobacco-day/2017/event/en/

Link to World No Tobacco Day 2017 campaign posters:

http://www.who.int/campaigns/no-tobacco-day/2017/poster/en/

Link to World No Tobacco Day 2017 social media banners:

http://www.who.int/campaigns/no-tobacco-day/2017/social-media/en/

Link to WHO’s 2015 report on the tobacco epidemic (English) [PDF]:

http://www.who.int/tobacco/global_report/2015/report/en/

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