Washington/Geneva, May 31 2017-Action to stamp out tobacco use can help countries prevent millions of people falling ill and dying from tobacco-related disease, combat poverty and reduce large-scale environmental degradation, according to a new World Health Organization report.

On World No Tobacco Day 2017, WHO is highlighting how tobacco threatens the development of nations worldwide, and is calling on governments to implement strong tobacco control measures. These include banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, promoting plain packaging of tobacco products, raising excise taxes, and making indoor public places and workplaces smoke-free.

Tobacco use kills more than 7 million people every year and costs households and governments over US$ 1.4 trillion through healthcare expenditure and lost productivity. Tobacco use is one of the largest preventable causes of noncommunicable diseases.

"Tobacco threatens us all," says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. "Tobacco exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity, contributes to poor household food choices, and pollutes indoor air."

Dr Chan adds: "But by taking robust tobacco control measures, governments can safeguard their countries' futures by protecting tobacco users and non-users from these deadly products, generating revenues to fund health and other social services, and saving their environments from the ravages tobacco causes."

All countries have committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Key elements of this agenda include implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and by 2030 reducing by one third premature death from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including heart and lung diseases, cancer, and diabetes, for which tobacco use is a key risk factor.

"Tobacco is a major barrier to development globally;" says Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO's Department for the Prevention on NCDs. "Tobacco-related death and illness are drivers of poverty, leaving households without breadwinners, diverting limited household resources to purchase tobacco products rather than food and school materials, and forcing many people to pay for medical expenses."

Tobacco scars the environment

 The first-ever WHO report, Tobacco and its environmental impact: an overview, also shows the impact of this product on nature, including:

  • Tobacco waste contains over 7000 toxic chemicals that poison the environment, including human carcinogens.
  • Tobacco smoke emissions contribute thousands of tons of human carcinogens, toxicants, and greenhouse gases to the environment. And tobacco waste is the largest type of litter by count globally.
  • Up to 10 billion of the 15 billion cigarettes sold daily are disposed in the environment.
  • Cigarette butts account for 30-40% of all items collected in coastal and urban clean-ups.

Tobacco threatens women, children, and livelihoods

Tobacco threatens all people, and national and regional development, in many ways, including:

  • Poverty: Around 860 million adult smokers live in low- and middle-income countries. Many studies have shown that in the poorest households, spending on tobacco products often represents more than 10% of total household expenditure - meaning less money for food, education and healthcare.
  • Children and education: Tobacco farming stops children attending school. 10%-14% of children from tobacco-growing families miss class because of working in tobacco fields.
  • Women: Up to 7 in 10 of tobacco farm workers are women, putting them in close contact with often hazardous chemicals.
  • Health: Tobacco contributes to 14% of all noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) deaths.
  • Taxation: a powerful tobacco control tool.

Taxation: a powerful tobacco control tool

"Many governments are taking action against tobacco, from banning advertising, promotion and sponsorship, to introducing plain packaging for tobacco products, and smoke-free work and public places," says Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO's Assistant Director-General for NCDs and Mental Health. "But one of the least used, but most effective, tobacco control measures to help countries address development needs is through increasing tobacco tax and prices."

"Raising taxes on tobacco products reduces tobacco consumption and the extra money can be used to finance health care and other development programs," said Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). "Let's protect our children. Let's say no to tobacco to improve our health, reduce poverty, and promote our development," she added.

Governments collect nearly US$ 328 billion in tobacco excise tax revenues each year, but this could increase by over 43%, generating an additional US$ 141 billion, simply from raising taxes on cigarettes by just US$ 0.80 per pack in all countries. Increased tobacco taxation revenues will strengthen domestic resource mobilization, creating the fiscal space needed for countries to meet development priorities under the 2030 Agenda.

In the case of the Americas, a recent study estimates that if all countries in the Region were to increase the excise on cigarettes by 50% per pack, cigarette sales volume would decrease in 7% while tax revenue would increase by approximately 30%.

Despite teh abundant evidence on the effectiveness of increasing tobacco taces to reduce consumption and remarkable recent advances in countries like Colombia and Peru, increaseing tobacco taxes remains the most underutilized measure in the Region.

Although there has been significant progress in the Americas in implementing the FCTC since its entry into force in 2005, about half of the population in the Region is not protected from exposure to tobacco smoke in public places and workplaces and over 70% are not protected from exposure to tobacco advertising and promotion. On this World No Tobacco Day, the Pan American Health Organization urges governments and partners to rise to the challenge of beating tobacco by adopting measures that reduce demand and supply for this deadly product.

Tobacco control represents a powerful tool in improving health in communities and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG target 3.4 is to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by one third by 2030, including cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, cancer, and diabetes.

Another SDG target, 3.a, calls for implementation of the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The WHO FCTC entered into force in 2005, and its Parties are obliged to take a number of steps to reduce demand and supply for tobacco products. Actions addressed in the Convention include protecting people from exposure to tobacco smoke; banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; banning sales to minors; requiring health warnings on tobacco packaging; promoting tobacco cessation; increasing tobacco taxes; and creating a national coordinating mechanism for tobacco control.

Colombia, Ecuador y Perú, to receive WHO World No Tobacco Day Award

WHO will will distinguish Colombia, Ecuador and Peru with its 2017 World No Tobacco Day Award, which recognizes institutions, organizations and individuals who have made outstanding contributions in the fight against smoking in their country.


Tobacco and its environmental impact: an overview
PAHO World No Tobacco Day
Tobbaco fact sheet
World No Tobacco Day
Tobacco Day Quiz