The World Health Organization has revealed on Tuesday that tobacco use kills more than 7 million people every year in the world. The organization is calling for a ban on its promotion and increasing taxes on related products.
On the occasion of the World No Tobacco Day, the WHO has published a report assessing the health and economic costs of tobacco and, for the first time, its environmental impact. Every year, more than 7 million people die of tobacco use, compared to some 4 million people in the early 21st century, according to the new WHO figures. More than 80% of deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Smoking is also a heavy economic burden on the planet: its cost in terms of healthcare costs and lost productivity is estimated at more than $ 1,400 billion or 1.8 % of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). “Tobacco is a threat to all of us,” said outgoing WHO Director-General Margaret Chan in a statement. “However, taking drastic tobacco control measures, governments can safeguard the future of their countries by protecting consumers and non-consumers of tobacco from these deadly products, generating revenues to finance Health and other social services and preserving their environment from the ravages of tobacco,” she said.
Nearly two-thirds of the 15 billion cigarettes sold each day are thrown into the environment, says the WHO in its first assessment of the footprint of tobacco on nature. According to the report, tobacco waste is the most common type of waste in the world, and “contains more than 7,000 toxic chemicals that poison the environment, including carcinogens”. Tobacco growing is also partly responsible for deforestation. One tree is lost for every 300 cigarettes produced, the experts write.
According to the WHO, tobacco could cause up to one billion deaths worldwide in the 21st century. In order to overcome this scourge, the WHO advocates for “strong measures”, such as the ban on marketing and advertising, neutral conditioning and the banning of tobacco products in public places and places of work. Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO Assistant Director-General, explains, “one of the least used but most effective tobacco control measures to help countries meet their developmental needs is to increase the price of tobacco and taxes on these products “.