A man smoking, Istanbul, Turkey. Photo courtesy of WHO/T. O’Leary.
Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death, killing one out of 10 people worldwide. Yet there are 1.3 billion smokers around the world. If smoking prevalence were reduced by 20-25 percent, we could prevent 100 million premature deaths by 2020. As a global community, we know how detrimental smoking is to health. Why can’t we stem the growing trend of smoking among youth and in emerging markets?
We’ve known about the toxic effects of smoking since the 1960s. In the U.S., anti-smoking efforts such as banning TV and radio tobacco advertising, launching public awareness campaigns about the dangers of smoking and restricting smoking in public areas, have resulted in a decline in the number of smokers from 37.6 percent in 1955 to 20.8 percent in 2006. But progress toward ending tobacco has stalled. Most notably, there is a rise in smoking among youth – especially among girls. Today more girls than boys smoke – a reversal of rates among their parents. When you consider that most smokers begin the habit before they hit 18, it’s a particularly worrisome development.
Equally alarming is the increasing trend of tobacco use in developing and middle-income countries, where 80 percent of smokers now live. The World Health Organization estimates that the prevalence of smoking among Egyptian males is nearly 40 percent. In China, more than 50 percent of men are smokers. Smoking is also a growing problem in Latin America and Africa. If current trends continue, lung cancer will be the primary cause of mortality in Latin America.
Read the full blog on The Huffington Post.
Download Vitality’s World No Tobacco Day poster.