According to the World Health Organization, the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 8 million people a year around the world.

In 2008, the World Health Organization named tobacco use as the world’s single greatest preventable cause of death.
Numerous studies have shown youths as the major group indulging in tobacco smoking and addiction, hence, WHO declared this year’s theme: “Protecting The Youth.”

Here are some interesting facts about tobacco smoking:

• Tobacco kills up to half of its users.
• Tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
• Around 80% of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.
• Tobacco use is a cause or risk factor for many diseases; especially those affecting the heart, liver, and lungs, as well as many cancers.
• Tobacco contains the highly addictive stimulant, nicotine.

Tobacco as the leading cause of death, illness and impoverishment

Of over 8 million tobacco-related deaths, 7 million are the result of direct tobacco use, while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

Around 80% of smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries. Tobacco use contributes to poverty by diverting household spending from basic needs such as food and shelter to tobacco. This spending behaviour is difficult to curb because tobacco is very addictive.

The economic costs of tobacco use are substantial and include significant health care costs for treating the disease caused by tobacco use as well as the lost human capital that results from tobacco-attributable morbidity and mortality.

Second-hand smoking kills

Second-hand smoke is the smoke that fills restaurants, offices or other enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products such as cigarettes, etc. There are a lot of chemicals in tobacco smoke, some of which are known to be harmful and cause cancer.

• In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it raises the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. In pregnant women, it causes pregnancy complications and low birth weight.
• Almost half of children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke in public places.
• Second-hand smoke causes more than 1.2 million premature deaths per year.
• 65 000 children die each year from illnesses attributable to second-hand smoke.

Every person should be able to breathe tobacco-smoke-free air. Smoke-free laws protect the health of non-smokers, are popular, do not harm business and encourage smokers to quit.

Tobacco users need help to quit

Studies show that few people understand the specific health risks of tobacco use. Most smokers who are aware of the dangers of tobacco want to quit. Counselling and medication increases a tobacco user’s chance of successful quitting.

Hard-hitting anti-tobacco mass media campaigns and pictorial health warnings protect children and other vulnerable groups from the uptake of tobacco and increase the number of tobacco users who quit.

Graphic health warnings can persuade smokers to protect the health of non-smokers by not smoking inside the home and also increases the compliance with smoke-free laws.

As the world marks yet another No-tobacco day, efforts should be intensified in disseminating information on the harmful effects of tobacco smoking while also lending a hand to those who want to quit.

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