Stop tobacco use now, or else

A billion people could die this century due to tobacco — if effective measures are not taken, warns the World Health Organization.

In its latest report, ”Mortality Attributable to Tobacco,” the WHO said the annual death toll from tobacco is expected to rise from 5 million — or one death every six seconds — to more than 8 million in the next two decades. More than 80 percent of those deaths are projected to occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The figures are alarming, given that they do not include estimated deaths due to second-hand smoke. They also do not include deaths of infants, children and young adults, but only adults 30 years and older.

What’s more, the report’s findings show tobacco use also increases people’s risk of death from communicable diseases. Case in point? Tuberculosis. The report says the disease is at times in a latent or dormant state, until triggered by tobacco use.

What should be done then?

The WHO encourages all 174 countries signatory to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to fulfill their obligations.

The WHO FCTC is a legally binding treaty that requires participants to develop and implement a series of evidence-based tobacco control measures, such as regulate the tobacco industry’s marketing activities and sales reach, reduce demand for tobacco, and provide agricultural alternatives for those involved in the tobacco business.

Countries can make use of six evidence-based tobacco control measures introduced by WHO in 2008, often referred to as the MPOWER package: Monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies, protecting people from tobacco smoke, offering help to quit tobacco use, warning about the dangers of tobacco, enforcing bans on tobacco ads, promotion and sponsorship, and raising taxes on tobacco.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.