Dudley Tarlton is a programme specialist for HIV, health and development in UNDP’s office in Geneva.
Follow him on Twitter: @DudleyTarlton
31 May 2013
“Use as directed” generally suggests "do as the manufacturer tells you and you’ll be safe." Tobacco, used as directed, kills about 6 million people yearly, roughly half those who use it. That includes about 600,000 people sickened by second-hand smoke.
May 31 marks World No Tobacco Day, and this year’s theme is “Ban tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship”— which are proven to increase tobacco use. Tobacco is the leading global cause of preventable death worldwide – and it kills more people in Asia and the Pacific than in any other region. In Southeast Asia, an estimated 1.3 million people die every year from tobacco-related disease. In the Western Pacific region alone, two people die every minute.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that tobacco use killed 100 million people in the last century and is on track to kill 1 billion people more by the end of this century. While high-income countries have historically consumed the most tobacco, low- and middle-income countries are closing the gap: Western European cigarette consumption has fallen by more than 25 percent since 1990, but African and Middle Eastern consumption has surged 57 percent during the same period.
In Nepal, where UNDP recently took part in a needs assessment sought by the government to identify priority actions for Nepal’s tobacco control efforts, smoking depicted on television or in films is now accompanied by scrolling warning messages.
In other countries, scenes that depict smoking may be deleted entirely.
Such bans are only as effective as the will to enforce them, including by closing loopholes that permit cross-border advertising and Internet promotions. Public awareness is critical, and civil society has played a vital role in raising awareness of the dangers of tobacco use.
It’s time for all governments to enforce the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), ratified by 176 countries that together account for almost 90 percent of the global population and put an end to tobacco promotion. Six million preventable deaths a year is six million too many.