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Tobacco use ‘needless threat’ to public health, says Secretary-General

Tobacco use ‘needless threat’ to public health, says Secretary-General

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged governments everywhere to address tobacco consumption, which he described as a “needless threat” to public health.

In a message to mark World No Tobacco Day, observed on 31 May, Mr. Ban noted that every year, some 5.4 million people die from illnesses caused by tobacco consumption, 80 per cent of them in low- and middle-income countries. Left unchecked, tobacco-related deaths will rise to more than 8 million by 2030.

In addition, lung cancer, heart disease and other tobacco-related illnesses are part of a broader epidemic of non-communicable diseases, which include strokes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

“These diseases have become the world’s leading cause of mortality,” the Secretary-General noted, adding that 60 per cent of all deaths globally are caused by them, with women being the hardest hit.

“That we continue to allow such diseases to be caused by tobacco consumption is a global tragedy. It also comes at vast expense,” he added.

Mr. Ban pointed out that economies are harmed by the costs of treating of tobacco-caused diseases and by decreased productivity due to illness and premature death, while families whose members die or become ill due to tobacco use endure an unnecessary financial burden.

Decreasing tobacco use was the theme of this year’s Day, and in an effort to raise the public’s awareness of the related dangers, the World Health Organization (WHO) had called on governments to require that all tobacco packages include pictures to warn consumers of the ill effects of tobacco use.

WHO said that effective health warnings, especially those that include pictures, have been proven to motivate users to quit and to reduce the appeal of tobacco for those who are not yet addicted.