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Tobacco kills – get the picture?

The theme of World No Tobacco Day 2009 is "Tobacco Health Warnings", with an emphasis on the picture warnings that have been shown to be particularly effective at making people aware of the health risks of tobacco use and convincing them to quit

Tobacco Health Warnings is the theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day on 31 May. The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging governments to increase public awareness of the dangers of smoking by requiring that all tobacco packages include pictorial warnings to show the sickness and suffering caused by tobacco use.

“Health warnings on tobacco packages are a simple, cheap and effective strategy that can vastly reduce tobacco use and save lives," said WHO Assistant Director-General Ala Alwan in a press release. "But they only work if they communicate the risk. Warnings that include images of the harm that tobacco causes are particularly effective at communicating risk and motivating behavioural changes, such as quitting or reducing tobacco consumption.”

In its report - entitled Showing the truth, saving lives: the case for pictorial health warnings - WHO said only 10 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where warnings with pictures are required on tobacco packaging. Studies carried out in Brazil, Canada, Singapore and Thailand revealed that having graphic images on cigarette packets of the consequences of smoking motivates more users to quit and reduces the appeal of taking up smoking for non-users.

Tobacco continues to be the leading preventable cause of death in the world, killing more than five million people every year. “It is the only legal consumer product that kills when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer,” according to the WHO report.

WHO data on tobacco consumption prevalence by percentage and sex within the Eastern Mediterranean Region

WHO data on tobacco consumption prevalence by percentage and sex within the Eastern Mediterranean Region
WHO data on tobacco consumption prevalence by percentage and sex within the Eastern Mediterranean Region
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Tobacco kills – get the picture?
WHO data on tobacco consumption prevalence by percentage and sex within the Eastern Mediterranean Region

Photo: WHO
WHO data on tobacco consumption prevalence by percentage and sex within the Eastern Mediterranean Region

According to WHO, current trends show that by the year 2020/2030, tobacco is likely to be the world’s leading cause of death and disability, killing more than 10 million people annually (70 percent of these deaths occurring in developing countries) and claiming more lives than HIV, tuberculosis, maternal mortality, motor vehicle accidents, suicide, and homicide combined.

Middle East statistics

The most recent WHO information for tobacco uses in the Middle East is from surveys conducted around 10 years ago in 19 countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR). They revealed that Yemeni men were the biggest smokers in the region, with 77 percent smoking, and Lebanese women topped the female category with 35 percent smoking.

Overall, the richer Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman) had the lowest prevalence of smokers, with Oman faring best, and the poorer Levant countries (Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan) and Yemen had the highest. A 2008 WHO report provides more recent statistics for select Middle Eastern countries.

Tobacco facts
Tobacco use is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced
There are more than one billion smokers in the world, about one third of the global population aged 15 years and over
Globally, use of tobacco products is increasing, although it is decreasing in high-income countries
Almost half of the world's children breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke
The epidemic is shifting to the developing world
More than 80% of the world's smokers live in low- and middle-income countries
Tobacco use kills 5.4 million people a year - an average of one person every six seconds - and accounts for one in 10 adult deaths worldwide
Tobacco kills up to half of all users
It is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of deaths in the world
100 million deaths were caused by tobacco in the 20th century. If current trends continue, there will be up to one billion deaths in the 21st century
Unchecked, tobacco-related deaths will increase to more than eight million a year by 2030, and 80% of those deaths will occur in the developing world

Source: WHO


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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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