World No Tobacco Day

Written By:Stacy Simon


May 31 is World No Tobacco Day, an annual awareness day sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 1987. The event is intended to highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and encourage governments to adopt effective policies to reduce smoking and the use of other tobacco products.

According to WHO, tobacco use kills more than 7 million people around the world each year, and that number is predicted to grow unless anti-tobacco actions are increased. In the United States, tobacco use is the largest preventable cause of death and disease. It causes many types of cancer, as well as heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and other health problems.

The focus of World No Tobacco Day 2019 is "tobacco and lung health."  The WHO is drawing attention to the essential role of lungs in the health and well-being of all people, and the harmful effects of tobacco on lung health. The WHO says knowledge about how tobacco harm lungs is low among much of the public in some countries. According to the WHO:

  • Although non-smokers can develop lung cancer too, smoking is the main cause of lung cancer worldwide, responsible for more than 2/3 of lung cancer deaths.
  • Smoking is the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that causes breathing to become painful and difficult.
  • Young children are most affected by second hand smoke and least able to avoid it. Secondhand smoke can lead to poor lung growth and function in children and babies, including those whose mothers smoked or breathed in secondhand smoke before they were born. These babies and children are also at increased risk of infections and asthma. When very young children are exposed to secondhand smoke, they are also at risk for sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Smoking also worsens damage to lungs caused by tuberculosis (TB). According to WHO, approximately ¼ of people around the world are infected with TB.

The WHO encourages governments worldwide to protect people from the harms of tobacco. Their recommendations include:

  • The creation of smoke-free public places, workplaces, and public transportation
  • Help for people who choose to quit tobacco, such as toll-free quit lines
  • Implementation of plain packaging and/or prominent and graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging
  • Launching effective anti-tobacco mass media campaigns that educate the public about the harms of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure
  • Enforcement of comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship
  • Increased taxes on tobacco products to make them less affordable


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