The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report yesterday, Thursday 7th February, covering global tobacco use that reveals the world is making
progress, but not a single country has brought in all the key measures necessary to implement full tobacco control.
The WHO Report of the Global Tobacco Epidemic which is based on data from 179 countries, is the first ever review of global tobacco use and efforts to control it, said WHO's Director-General Dr Margaret Chan at a press conference.
The key findings reveal that:
- Governments make more money in tax revenues than they spend on tobacco control.
- High income countries collect 340 times more in tobacco taxes than they spend on control, middle income countries collect over 4,000 times more in taxes than they spend, and in low income countries they collect 9,000 times more in tobacco taxes than they spend on controlling it.
- Only 5 per cent of the people in the world live in a country that has implemented comprehensive bans on the advertising and promotion of tobacco.
- 40 per cent of countries still allow smoking in schools and hospitals.
- Only 5 per cent of the people in the world are protected by comprehensive national smoke-free legislation.
- Only 15 countries, covering 6 per cent of the people in the world, have mandatory picture warnings on cigarette and other tobacco packets.
- Only 9 countries, covering 5 per cent of the world's population, have comprehensive services to help people give up tobacco.
The WHO recommends all countries adopt a six-point strategy called MPOWER:
Monitor use and prevention of tobacco,
Protect people from tobacco smoke,
Offer people help to quit smoking,
Warn about the dangers of tobacco use,
Enforce bans on sponsorship, promotion and advertising of tobacco products, and
Raise taxes on tobacco.
The report said MPOWER gave countries a "roadmap" to help them meet the promises they made when they signed up to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that came into force in 2005.
Chan said that:
"While efforts to combat tobacco are gaining momentum, virtually every country needs to do more."
"These six strategies are within the reach of every country, rich or poor and, when combined as a package, they offer us the best chance of reversing this growing epidemic," she added.
Director of the WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative, Dr Douglas Bettcher said the MPOWER strategies would help the world respond in a powerful way to the tobacco epidemic:
"This package will create an enabling environment to help current tobacco users quit, protect people from second-hand smoke and prevent young people from taking up the habit," said Bettcher.
The report was partly funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who co-presented the findings at the news conference, described it as "revolutionary":
"For the first time, we have both a rigorous approach to stop the tobacco epidemic and solid data to hold us all accountable," he said.
No country fully implements all of the MPOWER policies and 80 per cent of countries don't fully implement even one policy," added Bloomberg.
"While tobacco control measures are sometimes controversial, they save lives and governments need to step up and do the right thing," he urged.
The report shows that the global tobacco epidemic has shifted to the developing world. It is estimated that by the year 2030 more than 8 million people will die every year from tobacco-related causes, and 80 per cent of them will be in the developing world.
The report blames the shift on the tobacco industry's strategy of targeting the developing world's young people and adults, and young women in particular, which it describes as the "most ominous potential developments of the epidemic's growth".
Click here to read the WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008 - The MPOWER package.
Source: WHO press release.
Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD