Monday, 30 May 2011


 “A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black, stinking fume thereof nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.” - James I of England

Today is World No Tobacco Day, which is celebrated around the world on the last day of May every year. In 1987, the World Health Assembly of the WHO passed Resolution WHA40.38, calling for April 7, 1988 to be “a world no-smoking day”. This date was chosen as it was the 40th anniversary of the WHO. The aim of the day was to urge tobacco users worldwide to stop using tobacco products for 24 hours, an action they hoped would help those trying to quit. In 1988, Resolution WHA42.19 was passed by the World Health Assembly, calling for the celebration of World No Tobacco Day, every year on May 31. Since then, the WHO has supported World No Tobacco Day every year, linking each year to a different tobacco-related theme.

This year, the WHO celebrates the successes of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in the fight against the epidemic of tobacco use. At the same time, WHO recognises that challenges remain for the public health treaty to reach its full potential as the world’s most powerful tobacco control tool. Since the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2003, 172 countries and the European Union have become Parties to the WHO FCTC. Among other measures, the Parties are obliged over time to:
•    Protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke
•    Ban tobacco advertising and sales to minors
•    Put large health warnings on packages of tobacco
•    Ban or limit additives to tobacco products
•    Increase tobacco taxes
•    Create a national co-ordinating mechanism for tobacco control.

These initiatives may seem extreme, especially in developing countries that are facing what most people think are much more serious heath problems. However, it is useful to keep in mind some basic statistics regarding tobacco use. Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year, of whom:
•    More than 5 million are users and ex-users
•    More than 600 000 are non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke
•    After high blood pressure, tobacco use is the biggest contributor to the epidemic of non-communicable diseases (such as heart attack, stroke, cancer and emphysema), which accounts for 63% of deaths
•    Smokers are more susceptible to certain communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis and pneumonia

No consumer product kills as many people and as needlessly as does tobacco. It killed 100 million people in the 20th century. Unless we act, it could kill up to 1 billion people in the 21st century. All of these deaths will have been entirely preventable. It is also sobering to realise that as most Western nations are beginning to drastically reduce their tobacco consumption, developing countries are the largest users of tobacco products, with use increasing rather than decreasing in many of these. In India, about 20% of the population (about 241 million people) use tobacco products and usage is increasing.

The WHO says the following countries have the highest use of tobacco:

And just in case you were wondering, Ethiopia has the lowest reported rate, with only 52 cigarettes/adult/year being reported.

There are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer. Tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world, after cardiovascular disease, and is directly responsible for about one in ten adult deaths worldwide, equating to about 6 million deaths each year. Cigarettes kill half of all lifetime users. Half die in middle age - between 35 and 69 years old. No other consumer product is as dangerous, or kills as many people. Tobacco kills more than AIDS, legal drugs, illegal drugs, road accidents, murder, and suicide combined…

It’s time we quit!


  1. Hello Nicholas V:
    These are indeed appalling statistics. We are amazed to see that Hungary is not listed amongst the countries with the highest rate of tobacco use as we have long been under the impression that it stood alongside Russia as having a high incidence of tobacco smoking amongst its citizens.

    Certainly, our experience in Budapest is alarming with cigarettes being very cheap to buy, smoking allowed in many restaurants and public places and virtually everyone walking along the street smoking. It represents a very different picture from Brighton where a cigarette smoker is definitely in the minority of any group one sees.

    It continues to amaze us that a product carrying a warning of 'This will kill you' [or something similar] continues to fly off the shelves. We cannot imagine this type of advertising campaign working for anything else!

  2. There is a full report on this on the WHO site for the year 2010-2011.

    There is also an interesting Infographic here


  3. This is really sad for me personally as family members have had tobacco related disease and one of them died of lung cancer. It is quite amazing that people continue to smoke with so much evidence around about how bad it is...

  4. Disgusting habit with fatal effects...

  5. How terrible!!!!! I have been a smoker in the past but gave up a couple of years ago....
    Boy, am I glad I did!!!!!!!!!