A World Health Organisation report on the global use of tobacco has found that the number of smokers is falling and that 4.7 billion people or 63% of the population of the world are now covered by policies designed to reduce the use of tobacco. However they also found that tobacco companies are attempting to hamper efforts to fully introduce life-saving interventions to help smokers.
The WHO report recommends that the world governments should implement all the provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control into national control programs and policies. It also recommends that the illegal tobacco trade be restricted. Strategies such as graphic pack warnings, no smoking areas and tobacco advertising bans are part of ‘best practice’ tobacco control measures. Millions of people have had their lives saved because these measures have been brought in.
However use of tobacco is the leading single preventable cause of death globally. 7 million people a year are still dying from smoking cigarettes and the tobacco companies may be targeting countries that do not have such a strict regime for reducing tobacco use. The companies suggest that they are not opposed to reasonable regulation, but prefer to be in the dialogue rather than simply legislated against.
The numbers of smokers is falling slowly: 1 in 5 people over 15 smoke tobacco as opposed to 1 in 4 in 2007. In 2015, Nepal has brought in the world’s largest health warnings on tobacco packaging which covers 90% of the packets. The Philippines have significantly increased tobacco tax over time which has earned over $5bn for health care and other public services. In India, a tobacco cessation program and free quit line was launched in 2016. The countries where there is still high tobacco use are the Middle East, Asia and Africa. These countries are not making full use of taxing tobacco to discourage smokers, or they are listening to the tobacco companies which point out the economic value of tobacco or illegal trade. WHO points out that the cost of health services which are a significant financial burden are far more than the contribution that the tobacco companies make to these countries.
Fifty five countries make use of comprehensive smoke-free legislation. This has helped to reduce smoking further. 26 countries offer quit smoking treatment, covering 2.4 billion people. The most popular stop smoking measure has been strong graphic pack warnings - taken up by 78 countries which equates to almost half the global population.
A comprehensive national anti-tobacco media campaign has been aired to 3.2 billion people in the last two years to deter smokers. Banning tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion helps to prevent the industry sell its products and reduces tobacco use, however only 15% of the world’s population is covered by such a comprehensive ban at the moment.
The most successful tactic in the work to reduce tobacco use globally, has been the use of raised taxes on tobacco products. It is efficient and cost-effective and it helps to encourage users to quit, however it is also one of the least used measures to control tobacco and reduce smokers.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes controlling tobacco as a key part. Targets are included to strengthen national implementation of tobacco control legislation and aims to reduce premature deaths from smoking-related diseases by one third.
In the UK, there are free stop smoking services to help people quit smoking, which can be accessed through your GP.
WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, July 2017