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In honor of World No Tobacco Day 2018 on May 31, the World Health Organization (WHO) encourages people to stay away from all forms of tobacco consumption for 24 hours. This initiative is designed to draw attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and highlight the health risks associated with it, as well as encourage support for effective policies to reduce the use of tobacco.
According to WHO:
- Tobacco kills up to half of its users.
- Almost 6 million people die each year due to tobacco. More than 5 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
- Nearly 80% of the world’s 1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.
- Among smokers who are aware of the dangers of tobacco, most want to quit. Counseling and medication can more than double the chance that a smoker who tries to quit will succeed.
Second-hand smoke is the smoke that fills homes, cars, the workplace, and public places, such as bars, restaurants, and recreational settings when people burn tobacco products. There are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and almost 70 are known to cause cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. WHO reports:
- In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it causes sudden death. In pregnant women, it causes low birth weight.
- Almost half of children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke in public places.
- Second-hand smoke causes more than 600,000 premature deaths per year.
- In 2004, children accounted for 28% of the deaths attributable to second-hand smoke.
The theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day is “Tobacco Breaks Hearts: Choose Health, not Tobacco.” WHO will work to increase awareness of the link between tobacco and heart and other cardiovascular diseases, including stroke.