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Up In Smoke

Up In Smoke
Observed on May 31st, World No Tobacco Day is held annually in destinations around the world. It encourages a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco. The day also generates awareness of the negative health effects associated with tobacco such as lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and more.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), which created World No Tobacco Day in 1987, the tobacco epidemic is one of the largest worldwide public health threats ever. There are approximately 6 million tobacco-related deaths per year. More than 5 million deaths result from direct tobacco use and more than 600, 000 deaths result from non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke. 

The theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day is “Tobacco—a threat to development.” It’s interesting, but unfortunate to note that nearly 80 percent of the more than 1 billion smokers worldwide reside in low- and middle-income countries where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is greatest. Tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, elevate the cost of health care, and hinder economic development.

According to, tobacco growing occupies approximately 3.8 million hectares of agricultural land. About 90 percent of commercial tobacco leaf is grown in the global south, often in countries where undernourishment and child labor are major issues. 

Every year, WHO and its partners mark World No Tobacco Day by highlighting the health and additional risks associated with tobacco use, and advocate for effective policies to reduce consumption.  The day also demonstrates the threats that the industry poses to the sustainable development of all countries, including health and economic well-being. 

This year’s anti-tobacco campaign, which is linked with development, will highlight the connections between the use of tobacco products, tobacco control, and sustainable development. It will also encourage countries to include tobacco control in their national responses to 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which was adopted at the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2015. It recognizes NCD’s as a major challenge for sustainable development.

Other initiatives for 2017 include supporting member states and civil society to combat tobacco industry interference in political processes, which will lead to stronger national tobacco control action. It will encourage broader public and partner participation in national, regional, and global efforts to develop and implement development strategies and plans, and achieve goals that prioritize action on tobacco control. 

World No Tobacco Day will also demonstrate how individuals can contribute to making a sustainable, tobacco-free world, either by committing to the non-use of tobacco products, or by kicking the habit.

By Regina Molaro

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