WHO Worldwide Tobacco Facts

- The World Health Organization describes the tobacco epidemic as “one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced.”

- WHO says millions of people die each year as a result of tobacco use, and the number will only grow unless action is taken. It says tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the world, with tobacco killing up to half of its users.

- Tobacco use is one of the main risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, lung diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.

- The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year, of which more than 600,000 are people exposed to second-hand smoke.

- Unless urgent action is taken, the epidemic could kill up to 8 million people each year by 2030, of which more than 80 percent will live in low- and middle-income countries.

- Consumption of tobacco products is increasing globally, though it is decreasing in some high-income and upper middle-income countries.
In some countries, children from poor households are frequently employed in tobacco farming to provide family income. These children are especially vulnerable to “green tobacco sickness,” which is caused by the nicotine that is absorbed through the skin from the handling of wet tobacco leaves.

- Because there is a lag of several years between when people start using tobacco and when their health suffers, the epidemic of tobacco-related disease and death has just begun. Tobacco caused 100 million deaths in the 20th century. If current trends continue, it will cause up to one billion deaths in the 21st century.

This report is the third in a series of WHO reports on the status of global tobacco control policy implementation.

All data on the level of countries’ achievement for the six MPOWER measures have been updated through 2010, and additional data have been collected on warning the public about the dangers of tobacco. The report examines in detail the two primary strategies to provide health warnings – labels on tobacco product packaging and anti-tobacco mass media campaigns. It provides a comprehensive overview of the evidence base for warning people about the harms of tobacco use as well as country-specific information on the status of these measures.

To continue the process of improving data analysis, categories of policy achievement have been refined and, where possible, made consistent with new and evolving guidelines for the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Data from the 2009 report have been re-analyzed to be consistent with these new categories, allowing for more direct comparisons of the data across both reports.

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