World No Tobacco Day 2017 aims to highlight how tobacco is a threat to development

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Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of illness and death causing more than 7 million deaths annually and costing the global economy more than US$ 1.4 trillion annually in healthcare expenditure and lost productivity. By 2030, tobacco is projected to kill more than 8 million people each year.

Hence, bringing awareness about the ill-effects of tobacco use becomes imperative and with this objective, 31st May 2017 is being celebrated as the World No Tobacco Day by World Health Organization. The theme for this year is “Tobacco – A threat to development”. They are aiming to highlight and create awareness about how tobacco threatens the development of nations worldwide and is calling for governments to implement strong tobacco control measures.

Says Dr Margaret Chan, the Director-General of WHO, “This year, WHO will launch a new report that highlights the great harm to the environment inflicted by tobacco growing, manufacturing, trade and consumption. For example, growing and producing tobacco uses 4.3 million hectares of land resulting in deforestation of 2-4%, and the pesticides and fertilizers used in tobacco growing can be toxic and pollute water supplies. Tobacco manufacturing produces over 2 million tonnes of solid waste each year. Up to 10 billion cigarettes are disposed in the environment every day. Cigarette butts account for 30-40% of all litter collected in coastal and urban clean-ups.

Some other ways by which tobacco consumption hampers sustainable development are:

  • Tobacco consumption affects the poorest people the most and exacerbates poverty. Spending on tobacco takes precedence in these families, that means lesser money for food, education, and health-care.
  • Many children in tobacco-growing families miss class/school because they are needed to work in the tobacco fields, thus preventing them from attending schools and exposing them to hazardous chemicals.
  • Women are also disproportionately at risk of chemical exposure, as they make up 60-70% of the tobacco farming workforce.
  • Thus, in addition to posing a serious threat to health, tobacco use also threatens development in every country on every level and across many sectors — economic growth, health, education, poverty and the environment — with women and children bearing the brunt of the consequences.

Dr Chan intends to use the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO, to provide governments with clear, legally binding measures that they can introduce to reduce the harm caused by tobacco use. These include banning advertising, promotion, and sponsorship of tobacco, effectively warning about the harmful effects of tobacco use, implementing tax or price policies and protecting people from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. Everyone can help play a role in stamping out tobacco and promoting development at the same time. People can commit to never take up tobacco products or to seek help to quit the habit. Governments can strengthen implementation of the WHO FCTC.

She firmly believes that everyone can play a role in weeding out the tobacco menace and ensure sustainable development. Governments can do their part, by strengthening the implementation of the WHO FCTC. As for the public, they can commit to never take up tobacco products or seek help to quit the habit.

“If we rise to the challenge of beating tobacco by adopting measures that reduce demand for this deadly product, we can promote a healthier, more sustainable world,” concludes Dr Chan

Source: World Health Organization