Don’t let smoking steal life’s breathtaking moments, urges UN health agency

WHO The World Health Organization (WHO) says that tobacco use claims about eight million lives a year. (file)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Tobacco use continues to claim around eight million lives a year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday, in a call for faster action from governments to tackle smoking and the “enormous” health, social, environmental and economic costs it entails.

Ahead of World No Tobacco Day, marked on Friday, 31 May, WHO’s Dr Vinayak Prasad, acting Director, Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, highlighted the damage that tobacco causes to the lungs of smokers and non-smokers alike.

He warned that 3.3 million tobacco-related deaths – more than 40 per cent of the total – come from lung diseases, such as cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and tuberculosis.

“We want to highlight the huge scale of tobacco-related lung diseases,” he told journalists in Geneva. “Out of that 3.3 (million), about half a million people are those who are exposed to second-hand smoke and die from it…Amongst children, less than five years old, 60,000 children die every year from second-hand smoke – these are all low respiratory-tract infections.”

In just a single lungful of tobacco smoke, WHO insists that the hundreds of toxins contained in it “begin damaging the lungs”. This is because when smoke is inhaled, the structures that sweep mucus and dirt out of our airways are paralysed, allowing poisons in tobacco smoke to make their way into the lungs more easily.

The result of this is reduced lung function and breathlessness, owing to swollen airways and a build-up of mucus, WHO says, adding that these initial symptoms “are just part of the damage” that tobacco does to the lungs.

Governments ‘lagging behind’ their commitments

Although the percentage of people using tobacco globally has declined in recent decades – from 27 per cent in 2000, to 20 per cent in 2016 – WHO insists that governments are “lagging behind” their commitments to reduce tobacco use by 30 per cent by 2025.

To counter this, the UN agency is calling for quicker implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which provides practical advice on how to implement tobacco control measures covering all sectors of government.

The Convention highlights the need for greater public awareness strategies, such as creating smoke-free indoor public spaces, workplaces and public transport, along with banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and significantly increasing taxes on tobacco products, which should be sold with graphic health warnings.

In parallel to these activities, WHO’s advice remains that it’s never too late to quit smoking, as lung function improves within two weeks of stopping.

“Quitting tobacco use has the potential to reverse some, but not all, of the damage done by tobacco smoke to the lungs,” WHO says. “Quitting as soon as possible is therefore essential to prevent the onset of chronic lung disease, which is potentially irreversible once it has developed.”

To help people who want to quit, WHO also recommends the implementation of a toll-free ‘quitline’ service which offers behavioural counselling to callers, helping to boost quit rates by as much as four per cent. Mobile phone-based support for people who want to quit has also proved successful, the UN agency maintains.

These include WHO’s “Be He@lthy, Be Mobile” cessation programme – in association with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) – which offers personalized support through mobile text messaging.

“These programmes help tobacco users to quit and are efficient and cost-effective,” WHO says, noting that in India, the programme achieved a self-reported 19 per cent quit rate after four to six months, compared with a baseline population quit rate, of five per cent.

The programme has been implemented in Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, India, the Philippines and Tunisia, and can be rolled out elsewhere, WHO says.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Draghi’s negative interest rates help Eurozone’s cohesion

How COVID-19 could open the door for driverless deliveries

A new Europe for people, planet and prosperity for all

€5 billion of EU energy efficiency project money spent on “comfort”

2030 development agenda: Major breakthrough for world of work

UN chief saddened at news of death of former US President George H.W. Bush

It is me

Consumer protection: Deal on EU-wide rules for those sold faulty products

Blockchain is not a magic bullet for security. Can it be trusted?

Towards a climate-neutral Europe: EU invests over €10bn in innovative clean technologies

Draghi indirectly accuses Germany of using double standards in financial issues

UN court increases sentence of former Bosnian-Serb leader to life imprisonment

EU-US: A new transatlantic agenda for global change

More unemployment and lower wages to make European workers competitive?

UN chief applauds Bangladesh for ‘opening borders’ to Rohingya refugees in need

The gender gap of medicine in 2018

Turn toxic e-waste into a source of ‘decent work’, UN labour agency urges

Why Trump’s tariffs are good news for US garlic farmers

Lifting the lid on policy decisions across Africa

Homicide kills far more people than armed conflict, new UN study shows

10 things you – and your government – should know about competitiveness in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Why 2020 will see the birth of the ‘trust economy’

We must work together to build a new world order. This is how we can do it

Digital mental health is here – but how do we ensure its quality?

The collision of these 3 geographies is creating a new world order

Here’s why e-mobility must be at the heart of the green recovery

VAT: EU Member States still losing almost €150 billion in revenues according to new figures

Switzerland: prepare for population ageing to maintain high living standards

First seat projections for the next European Parliament

This NASA-inspired technology converts carbon dioxide into food. Here’s how

Our children’s career aspirations have nothing in common with the jobs of the future

Moves to create a Kosovo army have ‘deteriorated relations’ with Serbia: UN peacekeeping chief

EU adopts retaliative measures in response to US steel and aluminum tariffs

1 in 5 deaths globally caused by fossil fuel pollution, a new study reveals

Mental health: simple ideas that can make a difference

The technologies – and thoughtful collaborations – that can build resilience in the food system after COVID-19

European research priorities for 2021-2027 agreed with member states

Contribution of healthcare professionals towards the 2030 Global Health Agenda

Joint EU-U.S. statement following the EU-U.S. Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting

UN committed to helping Haiti build better future, says Guterres, marking 10-year anniversary of devastating earthquake

10 months were not enough for the EU to save the environment but 2 days are

Syrian crisis is ‘clearest example’ of foreign investment in terrorism, Deputy Prime Minister says at UN

Coronavirus: the truth against the myths

“Only through energy policy we can trigger competitiveness”. The Sting live from #EBS2015: Energy Union – When will it happen?

‘Signs of hope’ toward a political settlement in Yemen, UN special envoy tells Security Council

EU leaders slammed on anti-tax evasion inaction and expensive energy

Ceasefire holds in Tripoli, but core problems remain, says UN Libya mission chief

Quality education an ‘essential pillar’ of a better future, says UN chief

Stateless Rohingya refugee children living in ‘untenable situation’, UNICEF chief

Quality Education on the table at the European Parliament

The developing world must get ready to adapt its trade to climate change

Five cities short-listed to become the European Youth Capital 2017

Cambodia’s digital currency can show other central banks the way

Eurozone: Statistics don’t tell the whole story

We don’t know how autonomous vehicles will depreciate – and that’s a problem

4 key trends on how COVID has impacted women in business

Final turnout data for 2019 European elections announced

Investors have a role in securing our shared digital future

Parliament demands democratic scrutiny over national recovery efforts

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s