May 31 is celebrated as World No Tobacco Day each year. This year, the theme is ‘Commit to Quit’.
The Member States of the World Health Organization created World No Tobacco Day in 1987 to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes. In 1987, the World Health Assembly passed Resolution WHA40.38, calling for 7 April 1988 to be a “a world no-smoking day.” In 1988, Resolution WHA42.19 was passed, calling for the celebration of World No Tobacco Day, every year on 31 May.
Tobacco kills up to half of its users.
Tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
Over 80% of the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries.
All forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. Cigarette smoking is the most common form of tobacco use worldwide. Other tobacco products include waterpipe tobacco, various smokeless tobacco products, cigars, cigarillos, roll-your-own tobacco, pipe tobacco, bidis and kreteks.
Tobacco costs economies over US$ 1.4 trillion in health expenditures and lost productivity, which is equivalent to 1.8% of annual global GDP. Increasing tobacco taxes helps make these lethal products less affordable and helps cover health-care costs for the diseases they create.
Waterpipe tobacco use is damaging to health in similar ways to cigarette tobacco use. However, the health dangers of waterpipe tobacco use are often little understood by users.
Smokeless tobacco use is highly addictive and damaging to health. Smokeless tobacco contains many cancer-causing toxins and its use increases the risk of cancers of the head, neck, throat, oesophagus and oral cavity (including cancer of the mouth, tongue, lip and gums) as well as various dental diseases.
Key measures to reduce the demand for tobacco:
Second-hand smoke kills
- Second-hand smoke is the smoke that fills enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products such as cigarettes, bidis and water-pipes.
- There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke, which causes more than 1.2 million premature deaths per year and serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
- Almost half of children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke in public places, and 65 000 die each year from illnesses attributable to second-hand smoke.
- In infants, it raises the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. In pregnant women, it causes pregnancy complications and low birth weight.
Pictorial health warnings work
- Large pictorial or graphic health warnings, including plain packaging, with hard hitting messages can persuade smokers to protect the health of non-smokers by not smoking inside the home, increase compliance with smoke-free laws and encourage more people to quit tobacco use.
- Studies show that pictorial warnings significantly increase people’s awareness of the harms from tobacco use.
Bans on tobacco advertising lower consumption
- Comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship can reduce tobacco consumption.
- A comprehensive ban covers both direct and indirect varieties of promotion.
- Direct forms include, among others, advertising on television, radio, print publications, billboards and more recently in various social media platforms.
- Indirect forms include, among others, brand sharing, brand stretching, free distribution, price discounts, point of sale product displays, sponsorships and promotional activities masquerading as corporate social responsibility programmes.
Tobacco users need help to quit
- Studies show that few people understand the specific health risks of tobacco use. However, when smokers become aware of the dangers of tobacco, most want to quit.
- Without cessation support only 4% of attempts to quit tobacco will succeed.
- Professional support and proven cessation medications can more than double a tobacco user’s chance of successful quitting.
There are immediate and long-term health benefits of quitting tobacco
Beneficial health changes that take place:
- Within 20 minutes, your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
- 2-12 weeks, your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
- 1-9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
- 1 year, your risk of coronary heart disease is about half that of a smoker’s.
- 5 years, your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.
- 10 years, your risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker and your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decreases.
- 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker’s.
Benefits in comparison with those who continued:
- At about 30: gain almost 10 years of life expectancy.
- At about 40: gain 9 years of life expectancy.
- At about 50: gain 6 years of life expectancy.
- At about 60: gain 3 years of life expectancy.
- After the onset of life-threatening disease: rapid benefit, people who quit smoking after having a heart attack reduce their chances of having another heart attack by 50%.
Link to World No Tobacco Day 2021 WHO site:
Link to World No Tobacco Day 2021 Quitting Toolkit:
Link to WHO Commentary ‘Quit Tobacco to be a Winner’:
Link to WHO Question and Answer page on E-cigarettes:
Link to WHO Guide for tobacco users to quit:
Link to WHO page ‘More than 100 reasons to quit tobacco’: