31st Dec, Mamta Verma/Archana Yadav
Photo Source : WHO website
Every year, on 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) and global partners celebrate World No Tobacco Day (WNTD). The annual campaign is an opportunity to raise awareness on the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, and to discourage the use of tobacco in any form.
The focus of World No Tobacco Day 2019 is on “tobacco and lung health.”
Tobacco smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke increase the risk of contracting many diseases. For instance, active and passive smoking affect the health of people’s lungs in multiple ways:
- Lung cancer: smoking is responsible for over two thirds of lung cancer deaths globally, and second-hand smoke increases the risk of developing lung cancer for non-smokers. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in most countries of the WHO European Region. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of lung cancer: 10 years after quitting the risk falls to about half that of a smoker.
- Chronic respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma: tobacco smoking is the leading cause of COPD. According to the latest available data, 3.6% of total deaths in the European Region were due to COPD in 2017. Early smoking cessation is the most effective way of slowing the progression of COPD and improving asthma symptoms.
- Tuberculosis (TB) damages the lungs and reduces lung function, which is further exacerbated by tobacco smoking. About one quarter of the world’s population has latent TB, placing them at risk of developing the active disease. People who smoke are twice as likely to fall ill with TB. Active TB, compounded by the damaging lung health effects of tobacco smoking, substantially increases risk of disability and death from respiratory failure.
- Furthermore, children exposed to second-hand smoke are at higher risk of developing frequent lower-respiratory infections and have a higher risk of suffering the onset and exacerbation of asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis. The link between tobacco smoking and tuberculosis (TB) is also well established, showing that the chemical components of tobacco smoke can trigger latent infections of TB. Smoking can also increase the risk of disability and death from respiratory failure in people with active TB.
Implementing the FCTC to improve lung health
The campaign for WNTD aims to increase awareness about the particular dangers of tobacco smoke to lung health and the fundamental role the lungs play in the health and well-being of all people. It also focuses on raising awareness of cost-effective and feasible actions that key audiences, including governments and the public, can take to reduce the risks to lung health posed by tobacco.
Call to action
Lung health is not achieved merely through the absence of disease, and tobacco smoke has major implications for the lung health of smokers and non-smokers globally.
In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of a one-third reduction in NCD premature mortality by 2030, tobacco control must be a priority for governments and communities worldwide. Currently, the world is not on track to meeting this target.
Countries should respond to the tobacco epidemic through full implementation of the WHO FCTC and by adopting the MPOWER measures at the highest level of achievement, which involves developing, implementing, and enforcing the most effective tobacco control policies aimed at reducing the demand for tobacco.
Parents and other members of the community should also take measures to promote their own health, and that of their children, by protecting them from the harms caused by tobacco.