(this summary by GreenFacts is largely based on excerpts of the summary of the original report)
The results presented in this WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2011 show that it is possible for any country, regardless of political structure or income level, to implement an effective tobacco control programme to reduce tobacco use. The progress made provides strong evidence that there is political will for tobacco control on both national and global levels, which can be harnessed to great effect.
Many countries have indeed made significant progress in fighting the epidemic of tobacco use, and can be looked to as models for action by those countries that have not as yet adopted these measures. Countries must continue to expand and intensify their tobacco control efforts, ensuring they have both the financial means and political commitment to support effective and sustainable programmes.
A preventable cause of death
Tobacco use continues to be the leading global cause of preventable death. It kills nearly 6 million people and causes hundreds of billions of dollars of economic damage worldwide each year. Most of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and this disparity is expected to widen further over the next several decades. If current trends continue, by 2030 tobacco will kill more than 8 million people worldwide each year, with 80% of these premature deaths among people living in low- and middle-income countries. Over the course of the 21st century, tobacco use could kill a billion people or more unless urgent action is taken.
Many users still too much unaware of harmful effects of tobacco
Many tobacco users are still unaware of the harmful chemicals in tobacco products and tobacco smoke, as well as the wide spectrum of specific illnesses caused by tobacco use (7), and frequently do not know that smoking also causes cancers other than lung cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, and many other diseases. Many smokers also incorrectly believe that “light” or “low tar” cigarettes are less harmful.
Many non smokers are still not aware of the dangers of second-hand smoke. The extreme addictive nature of tobacco is also not widely acknowledged. Ths tudy underlines that, surprisingly, many people, including smokers, incorrectly believe that tobacco use is simply a “bad habit”, not an addiction. They often do not fully comprehend the speed with which people can become addicted to nicotine, or the degree of addiction, and grossly overestimate the likelihood that they will be able to quit easily when desired and before health problems occur.
The WHO initiatives : FCTC and MPOWER
The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) , is a legally binding global treaty to which adhere a total of 173 Parties, covering about 87% of the world’s population. it is a continued global commitment to decisive action against the global tobacco epidemic. The WHO FCTC provides the foundation with the necessary tools for countries to implement and manage tobacco control programmes to address the growing epidemic of tobacco use.
In 2008, WHO introduced the MPOWER measures that provide such practical assistance with country-level implementation of effective policies to reduce the demand for tobacco through a package of six evidence-based tobacco control measures that are proven to reduce tobacco use and save lives.
More work to be done
Although there has been substantial progress on tobacco control in many countries, more work needs to be done. Despite the progress being made by countries in levying revenue-generating tobacco taxes, governments still inadequately fund tobacco control activities. Governments collect nearly US$ 133 billion in tobacco tax revenues, says the report, but spend less than US$ 1 billion on tobacco control, a deficit that is most evident in low- and middle-income countries.
Because traditional avenues for marketing tobacco products have become increasingly restricted, the report notes that the tobacco industry has become increasingly more reliant on cigarette packaging as a primary marketing vehicle. This is why it is considered that favouring generic packaging may increase accurate perceptions of the risk of tobacco use and decrease smoking rates, and efforts to prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images and other promotional information are gaining traction. According to the report, pictorial labels are more effective than text-only warnings, in part because they are noticed by more people, provide more information, and evoke emotional responses to the images. Pictorial warnings are even more important in countries with low literacy rates where many people cannot understand written messages. Providing direct information about cessation services on tobacco packaging, in addition to health warnings, may further motivate smokers to make a quit attempt.
In general, the study underlines that warning labels are overwhelmingly supported by the public, often with levels of support at 85–90% or higher, and even most smokers support labelling requirements. Studies of children and adolescents find in particular that mentioning specific diseases on health warning labels makes them more believable than general warnings and that pictorial warnings are effective in making youth think about the health dangers of smoking and about reducing consumption.