WHO calls for strict enforcement of laws curbing ‘tobacco epidemic’

MANILA, Philippines — Some 900 million people regularly exposed to tobacco smoke are at risk of developing tobacco-related diseases that kill nearly six million people each year globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In a statement ahead of the global observance of “No Tobacco Day,” the WHO urged governments to pass and enforce strict national laws that will curb what it calls the “tobacco epidemic.”

The world observes the “No Tobacco Day” on May 31 and WHO called on different stakeholders to support legislation complying with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). In the Philippines, health advocates are still lobbying for the passage of the graphic health warnings bill that seeks to print pictures of diseases acquired from tobacco on cigarette packages. “In our Region, it is estimated that close to half of all men smoke and half of all women and children are regularly exposed to the deadly toxins of second hand smoke at home and in public places. This means that about 900 million people are regularly exposed and at high risk for tobacco–related disease.

This has a significant impact not only on health but also on the economy of countries,” Dr. Shin Young–soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said. The global health agency said heart disease, stroke, cancer and emphysema are some of the tobacco-related deaths that account for 63 percent of deaths from non-communicable diseases (non-infectious) in the world. The WHO official said the socio-economic cost of tobacco use to countries is “a reason for alarm.” In Australia, the annual social cost of tobacco use is estimated at $40.6 billion in 2004 and 2005.

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