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Tobacco use falls but targets still unmet

Smoking causes seven million deaths per year

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Use of tobacco around the world has fallen significantly since 2000 but not enough to meet targets set to prevent deaths and illness caused by cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases, it has been revealed.

The amount of work still needed to reduce the impact of smoking globally has been stressed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to mark World No Tobacco Day today.

For World No Tobacco Day, WHO has joined with the World Heart Federation to highlight the link between tobacco and cardiovascular diseases – the world’s leading causes of death, responsible for 44% of all non-communicable diseases (NCD) deaths, or 17.9 million deaths annually.

Tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure are major causes of cardiovascular diseases, contributing to approximately three million deaths per year, but evidence reveals a serious lack of knowledge of the multiple health risks associated with tobacco.

WHO said that while many people were aware tobacco use increased the risk of cancer, there were alarming gaps in knowledge of the cardiovascular risks of tobacco use.

Tobacco killed more than seven million people each year, despite the steady reduction in tobacco use globally, said WHO’s newly published Global Report on Trends in Prevalence of Tobacco Smoking 2000-2025.

The report shows that worldwide, 27% of people smoked tobacco in 2000, compared to 20% in 2016, but the pace of action in reducing tobacco demand and related death and disease was lagging behind global and national commitments to reduce tobacco use by 30% by 2025 among people aged 15 and older.

If the trend continued on the current trajectory, the world would only achieve a 22% reduction by 2025, said WHO.

The report also said there were 1.1 billion adult smokers in the world today, and at least 367 million smokeless tobacco users. The number of smokers in the world has hardly changed this century – it was also 1.1 billion in 2000, due to population growth, even as prevalence rates declined.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said: “Most people know that using tobacco causes cancer and lung disease, but many people aren’t aware that tobacco also causes heart disease and stroke – the world’s leading killers.

“This World No Tobacco Day, WHO is drawing attention to the fact that tobacco doesn’t just cause cancer, it quite literally breaks hearts.”

Campaigning group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) also released new data for World No Tobacco Day, showing that smoking cost communities in England £12.6bn a year from ill health and loss of productivity.

The figures from the ASH Ready Reckoner 2018 Edition showed the additional pressure that smoking was putting on the NHS and social care services including annual costs of £2.5bn to the NHS, and more than £760m to local authorities from smoking-related social care needs.

ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott said: “In some areas, local authority stop smoking services have been reduced due to cuts in local authority funding. Cuts to public health budgets need to be reversed and the NHS needs to step-up and play a larger role in supporting smokers to quit”.

Image courtesy of WHO

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