Cigarettes kill us, foul our air, and litter our streets

May 31st, 2012 by Events

(click on image to go to World Health Organization website)

According to the World Health Organisation “tobacco products are the only legally available products that can kill up to one half of their regular users if consumed as recommended by the manufacturer.”

The World Health Organisation has designated 31 May as “World No Tobacco Day“.

Every year nearly six million people die from tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke. Five million of these people are tobacco users and former users, and more than 600,000 are non-smokers who have been exposed to secondhand smoke.

And in the EU, tobacco accounts for about 700,000 premature deaths each year, which represents the single largest cause of avoidable death in the EU.

According to the WHO, tobacco use is the second cause of death globally after hypertension and is currently responsible for killing one in ten adults worldwide.

After high blood pressure, tobacco use is the biggest contributor to the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases, accounting for 63% of deaths.

Most tobacco-related deaths occur among working-age adults. Those who do not die in their prime often face prolonged disability. Smokers may lose mobility from heart disease, stroke, lung disease or amputation of limbs.

The tobacco industry provides a prima facie case of privatising profit at great public expense.

Besides the very considerably health care costs of looking after people with tobacco-related diseases, and the loss in productivity as a consequence of those diseases, tobacco growing occupies land that could be used for food production. And all the tobacco smoke emitted produces air pollution.

Even though producing cigarette end litter is against the law in many jurisdictions, cigarette litter continues to be a major nuisance and environmental threat the world-over. Cigarette ends are largely non-biodegradable, and contain persistent toxic chemicals that are environmental pollutants.

Cigarette ends littering Hauteville in St Peter Port on 15 May 2012. The cobbles makes it difficult to pick up this litter (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Picking-up cigarette end litter presents a substantial cost to public service organisations responsible for the task, and is very time consuming for voluntary groups that engage in the activity.

A European Commission, EU-wide survey published on 30 May 2012 shows that 60% of citizens support measures to make tobacco less visible and attractive, such as keeping tobacco products out of sight in shops or curbing the use of attractive flavours and colours.

Regrettably, 28% of EU citizens aged 15 and over still smoke, and 70% of the smokers and ex-smokers took up the habit before the age of 18.

John Dalli, European Commissioner in charge of Health & Consumer Policy, said “I am deeply concerned about the fact that most Europeans start smoking in their early youth, before their 18th birthday. This is why, as I stressed at a meeting with Dr. Haik Nikogosian, Head of the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control‘s Secretariat, I am committed to ensuring that Europe lives up to its international commitments on regulating tobacco products, including reducing cigarettes’ appeal to young people. It is in this spirit that the European Commission is currently shaping a proposal to revise the Tobacco Products Directive“.

Commissioner Dalli added “I am encouraged by citizens’ broad support for stronger tobacco control measures. It is also reassuring to see a substantial fall in the proportion of people exposed to tobacco smoke. This shows that strict regulations on smoking in public places and awareness raising action about the advantages of not smoking – such as the EU’s “Ex-Smokers are unstoppable” campaign – are delivering results”.

According to the EU Survey, the number of cigarettes smoked on a daily basis is 14.2, which represents a slight decrease from the 2009 survey, which showed an average 14.4 cigarettes smoked per day.

61% of current smokers have already tried to quit smoking, including 1 in 5 in the year prior to the survey.

Although there has been a 17% fall in the proportion of people exposed to tobacco smoke in restaurants and bars, 14% of EU citizens still reported that they were exposed to smoking in restaurants and 28% inside cafés and bars in the last six months.

Almost three-quarters of EU citizens are in favour of introducing security features to curb illicit trade of cigarettes, even if it makes them more expensive.

One third of smokers and ex-smokers in the EU say health warnings on tobacco packs do impact their attitude and behaviour towards smoking.

In order to reduce tobacco consumption throughout the European Union, the Commission continues to pursue a comprehensive tobacco control policy.

The review of the 2001 Directive on Tobacco Products is on-going and the Commission intends to table its proposal in the second half of 2012.

The EU and all Member States have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which entered into force in February 2005.

A Council Recommendation on Smoke-Free Environments, adopted in 2009, calls on Member States to adopt and implement laws to protect citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke in enclosed public places, workplaces, and public transport.

It also calls for the enhancement of smoke-free laws with supporting measures to protect children, encourage efforts to quit smoking and display pictorial warnings on cigarette packages.

As part of its awareness-raising campaign, the Commission launched its “Ex-smokers are unstoppable” campaign in 2011. The campaign is now entering a new phase, building on the success of its first year. A renewed programme adheres to the original strategy that “Ex-Smokers are Unstoppable” should effect change by shifting the emphasis from the negative health consequences associated with smoking towards the positive benefits of becoming an ‘ex-smoker’, thus motivating men and women across Europe to quit smoking.

The EU has published a paper on Attitudes of Europeans towards tobacco and have a Tobacco Policy website.


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