On World No Tobacco Day 2012, and throughout the following year, WHO will urge countries to put the fight against tobacco industry interference at the heart of their efforts to control the global tobacco epidemic which kills almost 6 million people every year and is one of the leading preventable causes of illness and death around the world.
“In recent years, multinational tobacco companies have been shamelessly fuelling a series of legal actions against governments that have been at the forefront of the war against tobacco. The industry is now stepping out of the shadows and into court rooms,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “We must now stand together with these governments that have had the courage to do the right thing to protect their citizens.”
More countries are moving to fully meet their obligations under the 2003 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). Governments are working to create 100% smoke-free, enclosed work and public places; to inform the public of tobacco harms through large and strong pictorial warning on tobacco packages; and to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The tobacco industry however, is hard at work to undermine the treaty, including taking governments to court. In fact, the governments of Australia, Norway and Uruguay are currently battling tobacco industry law suits in their national courts.
Tobacco kills up to half its users. By 2030, WHO estimates that tobacco will kill more than 8 million people every year, with four out of five of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries. Tobacco is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases. NCDs account for 63% of all deaths worldwide.
In nonsmokers, exposure to secondhand smoke is estimated to kill another 600 000 people annually. Almost half of all children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke and more than 40% of children have at least one smoking parent. In 2004, children accounted for nearly one third of deaths attributable to secondhand smoke.
Most adult smokers started the habit before the age 20. To recruit new smokers, the industry’s relentless marketing machinery targets youth, especially young women.
The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO. It was adopted in 2003 and now has 175 Parties.