World No Tobacco Day is May 31, and this year’s theme is “tobacco and lung health.” The day and the message helps to “raise awareness of the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure,” from cancer to chronic respiratory disease. The damage caused by tobacco use is a worldwide problem and here are some of the numbers.
There are around 1.1 billion smokers in the world and every year tobacco kills at least 8 million people and millions more live with the diseases caused by tobacco. Being exposed to secondhand smoke caused another 3.3 millions deaths in 2017: 1.5 million from chronic respiratory diseases; 1.2 million from cancer of the tracheal, bronchus and lung; and 600,000 from respiratory infections and tuberculosis. And secondhand smoke claims the lives of more than 60,000 children under the age of 5 through lower respiratory infections. But this doesn’t have to continue.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging countries to fight the tobacco epidemic by enforcing tobacco control actions, and reducing demand for tobacco through increased taxation, smoke-free places and help with quitting. We can all start by protecting the health of our families and communities through education of the health harms of tobacco. While many high-income countries, such as the U.S., have anti-tobacco measures in place and the means to fight the tobacco epidemic, low-income countries can fight tobacco though implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
According to the WHO recommendations, e-cigarettes should follow the same guidelines set for tobacco products, such as protection from secondhand vapor, and advertising of these products should be regulated. While the vaping industry claims they are less harmful, we really don’t know the full extent of the future health conditions.