Today marks the 25th anniversary of World No Tobacco Day, a day to encourage tobacco users around the world to abstain from all forms of tobacco for a 24-hour period. When originally created in 1987 the day fell on April 7, the anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO). In 1988 the date was moved to May 31 and a different theme was developed for each year to bring attention to tobacco-related issues that exist throughout the world. This year’s theme is tobacco industry interference which will “focus on the need to expose and counter the tobacco industry’s brazen and increasingly aggressive attempts to undermine the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) because of the serious danger they pose to public health.”
Tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death and is a global epidemic that kills nearly 6 million people each year. The WHO FCTC entered into force in 2005 and has been signed by 175 WHO member states that work together internationally to counter this global epidemic and “reaffirm the right of all people to the highest standard of health.” As more people in developed countries are educated about the the dangers of tobacco use and stricter regulations are adopted, the tobacco industry has set its focus and energy on markets in developing counties. The industry will do whatever it can to interfere with the implementation of new laws and health warnings on tobacco products by:
- maneuvering to hijack the political and legislative process;
- exaggerating the economic importance of the industry;
- manipulating public opinion to gain the appearance of respectability;
- fabricating support through front groups;
- discrediting proven science; and
- intimidating governments with litigation or the threat of litigation.
It is up to us educate ourselves about the dangers of tobacco use, be mindful of the ways the tobacco industry manipulates us, and take back control of our health so we can end the global tobacco epidemic.
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