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Home arrow Report Categories arrow Health arrow WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008

WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008

November 26 2008

 WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008In the 20th century, the tobacco epidemic killed 100 million people worldwide. During the 21st century, it could kill one billion!

Six effective tobacco control policies can counter the epidemic.

WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008 is the first in a series of WHO reports that will track the status of the tobacco epidemic and the impact of interventions implemented to stop it.

Tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death in the world today. This year, tobacco will kill more than five million people – more than tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. By 2030, the death toll will exceed eight million a year. Unless urgent action is taken tobacco could kill one billion people during this century.

Tobacco is the only legal consumer product that can harm everyone exposed to it – and it kills up to half of those who use it as intended. Yet, tobacco use is common throughout the world due to low prices, aggressive and widespread marketing, lack of awareness about its dangers, and inconsistent public policies against its use. Most of tobacco’s damage to health does not become evident until years or even decades after the onset of use. So, while tobacco use is rising globally, the epidemic of tobacco-related disease and death has just begun.

But we can change the future. The tobacco epidemic is devastating – but preventable. The fight against tobacco must be engaged forcefully and quickly – with no less urgency than battles against life-threatening infectious diseases. We can halt the tobacco epidemic and move towards a tobacco-free world – but we must act now.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a multilateral treaty with more than 150 Parties, was the first step in the global fight against the tobacco epidemic (see Appendix VI for status of the WHO Framework Convention). This treaty presents a blueprint for countries to reduce both the supply of and the demand for tobacco. The WHO Framework Convention establishes that international law has a vital role in preventing disease and promoting health.

Parties to the WHO Framework Convention have committed to protect the health of their populace by joining the fight against the tobacco epidemic. To help countries fulfil the promise of the WHO Framework Convention, WHO has established MPOWER, a package of the six most important and effective tobacco control policies: raising taxes and prices, banning advertising, promotion and sponsorship, protecting people from secondhand smoke, warning everyone about the dangers of tobacco, offering help to people who want to quit, and carefully monitoring the epidemic and prevention policies. These policies are proven to reduce tobacco use. ...

Visit WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008 Download Page

You can download full report in PDF format. Available Arabic, Chinese and English.

This landmark new report presents the first comprehensive worldwide analysis of tobacco use and control efforts. It provides countries with a roadmap to reverse the devastating global tobacco epidemic that could kill up to one billion people by the end of this century.

Tobacco Epidemic Death Toll
100 million dead in the 20th century
Currently 5.4 million deaths every year
Unless urgent action is taken:
By 2030, there will be more than 8 million deaths every year
By 2030, more than 80% of tobacco deaths will be in developing countries
One billion estimated deaths during the 21st century

Visit The Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI) Website

The World Health Organization’s response to the tobacco epidemic

The Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI) was established in July 1998 to focus international attention, resources and action on the global tobacco epidemic.
TFI's objective

TFI's objective is to reduce the global burden of disease and death caused by tobacco, thereby protecting present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.

  • To accomplish its mission, TFI:
  • provides global policy leadership;
  • encourages mobilization at all levels of society; and
  • promotes the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), encourages countries to adhere to its principles, and supports them in their efforts to implement tobacco control measures based on its provisions.

We must act now to reverse the global tobaco epidemic and save milions of lives

We hold in our hands the solution to the global tobacco epidemic that threatens the lives of one billion men, women and children during this century. In fact, tobacco use can kill in so many ways that it is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death in the world. The cure for this devastating epidemic is dependent not on medicines or vaccines, but on the concerted actions of government and civil society.

This is a unique point in public health history as the forces of political will, policies and funding are aligned to create the momentum needed to dramatically reduce tobacco use and save millions of lives by the middle of this century.

Reversing this entirely preventable epidemic must now rank as a top priority for public health and for political leaders in every country of the world.

The global consensus that we must fight the tobacco epidemic has already been established by the more than 150 Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Now, the WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008 gives countries a roadmap that builds on the WHO Framework Convention to turn this global consensus into a global reality through MPOWER, a package of six effective tobacco control policies.

But countries need not act alone. WHO, with help from its global partners, is scaling up its capacity and is committed to supporting Member States as they implement and enforce the MPOWER policies. The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008 also enables WHO to present a unique and comparable set of country-specific data from around the world that will cast an intense spotlight on tobacco use, its impact on people and economies, and the progress countries are making to reverse the epidemic.

Prompt action is crucial. The tobacco epidemic already kills 5.4 million people a year from lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. Unchecked, that number will increase to more than 8 million a year by 2030.

Tragically, with more than 80% of those deaths occurring in the developing world, the epidemic will strike hardest in countries whose rapidly growing economies offer their citizens the hope of a better life. To the tobacco companies, these economies represent vast new marketplaces. This will result not only in large increases in illness and death, but also in less productive workforces and escalating avoidable healthcare costs.

We cannot let this happen. I call on governments around the world to take urgent action to implement the policies outlined in the MPOWER package.

Dr Margaret Chan
World Health Organization

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Last Updated ( November 26 2008 )
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