With such alarming figures showing that about five million people die annually worldwide due to tobacco-related disease, which is expected to rise to 10 million deaths a year by 2030 with 70 percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries- it’s no wonder that health representatives spanning the globe gathered Monday in Punta Del Este, Uruguay for the fourth session of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control sponsored by the World Health Organization.
The WHO FCTC is the first treaty negotiated under the sponsorship of the World Health Organization, in response to the worldwide tobacco epidemic. One of the primary objectives of the treaty is to provide a new legal framework for international health cooperation.
It was adopted by the World Health Assembly on May 21, 2003 and put into operation on February 27, 2005. It has rapidly become one of the most widely embraced treaties in UN history and, as of this year, includes 171 parties.
In addition to promoting and examining policies which reduce smoking globally, this year’s convention will devote a considerable amount of attention to the advertising of tobacco products.
Uruguay, this year’s host country, restricts more than one type of any brand of cigarette, such as Marlboro, which has the red, gold and silver brands. Uruguay additionally requires 80 percent of the cigarette packages to be devoted to the dangers of smoking; both of these requirement drew strong objections from Phillip Morris International, which filed a lawsuit against the South American country on the grounds their policies are too restrictive.
Uruguay earlier distinguished itself in becoming one of the catalysts in stamping out smoking, when in 2006 it became the first country in the Americas to become 100 percent smoke-free by enacting a ban on smoking in all public spaces and workplaces, including bars, restaurants.
Other issues on the agenda during the week-long convention include discussion on imposing tighter controls on tobacco ingredients , expanding cessation programs and smoke-free spaces, along with plans to raise taxes on tobacco products, one of the most expedient and proven ways to discourage people from smoking.
What follows are some updated fast facts and statistics on the dangers of smoking, along with an update on efforts to pass strict anti-smoking laws both nationally and around the globe.
• Only nine percent of countries mandate smoke-free bars and restaurants, and 65 countries report no implementation of any smoke-free policies on a national level.
• More than 80 percent of the world's one billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.
• More than 90 percent of the world’s population is not protected by comprehensive smoke free policies.
• Only two percent of the world’s population live in countries with comprehensive smoke-free laws and high levels of compliance with these laws
• More than 4 000 chemicals have been identified in tobacco smoke.
• An estimated 700 million children worldwide – about 40 percent of all children – are exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke at home.
• Second-hand tobacco smoke is estimated to cause about 600, 000 premature deaths per year worldwide, approximately the same number of people who are killed by measles or women who die during childbirth each year.
• About 50, 000 deaths in the United States each year – about 11 percent of all tobacco-related deaths – are attributable to exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.
• In the European Union, second-hand tobacco smoke exposure at work is estimated to cause about 7 600 deaths per year, with exposure at home causing an additional 72 100 deaths.
• The smoke-free workplace law introduced in Ireland in March 2004 has been judged successful by 96 percent of people, including 89 percent of smokers.
• The four countries of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have a national tobacco dependence treatment service that is universally available to all smokers free of charge through the countries’ National Health Service (NHS).
• New Zealand, which has among the world’s strongest tobacco control policies, first passed countrywide legislation in 1990 to restrict smoking in locations such as workplaces and schools.
• Seven more countries (Colombia, Djibouti, Guatemala, Mauritius, Panama, Turkey and Zambia) joined the group of countries with complete policies in 2008, bringing the total number with comprehensive smoke free laws to 17.
• Only eight percent of the world’s population lives in a country with strong graphic warnings on cigarette packs
• Panama bans all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
• Governments worldwide annually collect more than $ 167 billion in tobacco tax revenues, but only spend a total of only $ 965 million on tobacco control.
• Manipur, India (87.8 percent) has the highest rate of children first being introduced to smoking before age 10; the lowest was Buenos Aires, Argentina (6.1%).
• Students in Manipur, India (86.3 percent) were the most likely to have purchased cigarettes in a store, with the least likely in the United States (9.6 percent)
• Nearly 20 percent of 13–15 year olds worldwide use some type of tobacco product and among those who smoke cigarettes, nearly 25 percent smoked their first cigarette before the age of 10 years.
• Only 26 countries, representing 8.8 percent of the world’s population, have comprehensive national bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
• In the United States, 20 percent of high school students were cigarette smokers in 2007; 21.3 percent were males, 18.7 percent were female.
• 6.3 percent of U.S. middle schoolers were cigarette smokers in 2006.
• An estimated 46 million people or 20.6 percent of all adults (aged 18 years and older) in the United States currently smoke cigarettes. Cigarette smoking is more common among men (23.1%) than women (18.3%).
• 31.5 percent of adult cigarette smokers live below the poverty level
• 19.6 percent of adult cigarette smokers live at or above the poverty level.
• Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have passed comprehensive smoke free laws.
• The nationwide average retail pack of cigarettes is $5.51
• Each year, tobacco use kills 393,000 people in the United States.
• New York now has the highest cigarette tax in the country at $4.35 per pack; Missouri the lowest at 17 cents.
• In California, 75 percent of the population approved of smoke-free workplace laws that included restaurants.
• On July 1 in Kansas and July 5th in Wisconsin, laws prohibiting smoking in almost all public places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars took effect
• Eight states and the District of Columbia place some restrictions on tobacco advertising and promotion.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, American Lung Association, National Conference of State Legislatures
Web sites to keep in mind:
Smoke Free Laws and Policies (American Lung Association)
Enacted Indoor Smoke Free Laws (From the National Conference of State Legislatures)
Smoking & Health Resource Library (From the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention)