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Fact: Smoking is harmful to health, causing an estimated 600,000 deaths globally each year: WPRO/WHO

Tobacco use is one of the world's leading preventable causes of death and contributes significantly to the risks for noncommunicable diseases like cancer, lung and heart disease. Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke is also harmful to health, causing an estimated 600,000 deaths globally each year. In the Western Pacific Region it is estimated that two people die every minute from tobacco-related disease, and half of all women and children are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke at home and in public places. The most common type of tobacco product used is manufactured cigarettes, but tobacco is also chewed, sucked or snuffed. Tobacco tax as a percentage of retail price is still relatively low in many parts of the region.

Key facts

  • Tobacco kills up to half of its users.
  • Tobacco kills nearly six million people each year, of whom more than 5 million are users and ex users and more than 600 000 are nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke. Unless urgent action is taken, the annual death toll could rise to more than eight million by 2030.
  • Nearly 80% of the world's one billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Consumption of tobacco products is increasing globally, though it is decreasing in some high-income and upper middle-income countries.
Tobacco epidemic in the Western Pacific Region

  • Tobacco use is one of the biggest contributors to the epidemic of noncommunicable disease in the Western Pacific Region.
  • Of the World Health Organization's six regions, the Western Pacific Region has
    • the greatest number of smokers
    • the highest rates of male smoking prevalence
    • the fastest increase in tobacco uptake by women and young people
  • One in three cigarettes consumed globally is smoked in the Western Pacific Region.
  • It is estimated that two people die each minute from tobacco–related disease in the Region.
  • Unchecked, the tobacco epidemic could undermine other public health gains as well as hamper economic growth and development in the Region.
Second-hand smoke kills

  • Second-hand smoke contains over 7000 chemicals of which 70 are known carcinogens.
  • More than 50% of young people aged 13 to 15 are exposed to second–hand smoke at home, and 64% are exposed to second–hand smoke in public places. Passive or second–hand exposure to tobacco smoke causes 600 000 estimated deaths a year globally.
  • In the Western Pacific Region, it is estimated that more than 50% of men, women and children are regularly exposed to second–hand smoke at home and in public places.
Tobacco's toll on human life

  • After high blood pressure, tobacco use is the biggest contributor to the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases — such as heart attack, stroke, cancer and emphysema — which accounts for 63% of deaths globally.
  • Smokers are more susceptible to certain communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.
  • No consumer product kills as many people, and as needlessly, as does tobacco. It killed 100 million people in the 20th century. Unless we act, it could kill up to 1 billion people in the 21st century. All of these deaths will have been entirely preventable.
  • Tobacco causes over 20 different diseases, many of them fatal or disabling. It is responsible for over 71% of all cases of lung cancer deaths globally, 42% of chronic respiratory disease deaths and nearly 10% of all deaths from cardiovascular disease.
  • The scourge of tobacco use is entirely preventable.
  • In the past, traditional public health methods for reducing tobacco use such as individual interventions by health professionals was no match for the tobacco industry's power, transnational reach, formidable resources and active promotion of tobacco use.
The poor are most harmed

  • Tobacco use is growing fastest in low- and middle–income countries, owing to steady population growth and tobacco industry targeting. By 2030, more than 80% of the world’s tobacco–related deaths will occur in these countries.
  • In many countries, the percentage of total expenditures allocated for tobacco products was highest for the lowest–income households.
  • Tobacco use can inflict immediate harm on users and their families when scarce family resources are spent on tobacco products instead of other essential needs. Even a small diversion of the resources of poor families who live at or below the edge of poverty can have a significant impact on their health and nutrition.
  • The costs related to tobacco use are significant. Most tobacco–related deaths occur among working–age adults. Those who do not succumb immediately often face prolonged disability. In the low–income countries, where health insurance is scarce or nonexistent, the direct health–care costs are frequently borne entirely by families.
  • The economic impact of early death, disability and lost productivity contributes to the burden of poverty, retarding national development and further widening health inequities. This is especially true in the low- and middle–income countries, where resources for tobacco control are often limited. Therefore, tobacco control is not only a public health priority, but also a key development issue.
Source : WPRO/WHO

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