Vast Majority Of Public Remain Exposed To Dangerous Second-Hand Smoke – UN Report
New York, Dec 9 2009 9:10AM The vast majority of the world’s population is still exposed to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, responsible for 600,000 premature deaths annually, despite the ban on smoking in public places being extended to seven more countries last year, a United Nations report warns today.
The World Health Organization (WHO) report noted that last year some 154 million more people no longer endured tobacco smoke in workplaces, restaurants, bars and other indoor spaces as Colombia, Djibouti, Guatemala, Mauritius, Panama, Turkey and Zambia implemented comprehensive smoke-free laws.
However, only 5.4 per cent of the world’s population was covered in 2008 by such legislation, up from 3.1 per cent in 2007, according to the 2009 WHO report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic.
“The fact that more than 94 per cent of people remain unprotected by comprehensive smoke-free laws shows that much more work needs to be done,” said WHO Assistant Director-General for Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health Ala Alwan.
“Urgent action is needed to protect people from the death and illness caused by exposure to tobacco smoke,” added Dr. Alwan, stressing that there is “no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.”
WHO chose to make smoke-free environments the focus of the report not only because second-hand smoking kills, but it also causes crippling and disfiguring illnesses, as well as economic losses amounting to tens of billions of dollars annually.
In addition, the report tracks the global tobacco epidemic, providing evidence showing where interventions aiming to reduce tobacco consumption have been effective and where more progress is needed. It also gives figures on tobacco use in individual countries as well as information about cigarette taxation, bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, support for treatment of tobacco dependence, enforcement of tobacco-free laws and monitoring of the epidemic.
“Comprehensive tobacco control will help countries to reduce the rising number of heart attacks, strokes, cancers and other non-communicable diseases,” said Douglas Bettcher, Director of the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative.
“People need more than to be told that tobacco is bad for human health,” said Dr. Bettcher. He said they need governments to implement the 2005 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which has been ratified by nearly 170 countries.
Tobacco use continues to be the leading preventable cause of death, killing more than 5 million people per year, and unless urgent measures are taken to control the tobacco epidemic, the annual death toll could rise to 8 million by 2030, according to the WHO report.