A World Health Organization (WHO) report says there has been a marked decline in tobacco use since year 2000.
Worldwide, 27 percent of the population smoked tobacco in 2000, compared with 20 percent in 2016.
The report however, indicated that the reduction was not sufficient enough to meet globally agreed targets aimed to protect people from dying and suffering from cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Its release was timed to coincide with the celebration of this year’s “world no tobacco day”.
The specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) has joined the World Heart Foundation to put a spotlight on the link between tobacco and cardiovascular diseases – responsible for 17.9 deaths, annually, across the globe.
The report said tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure were major causes of heart attacks and stroke.
It expressed worry about what it said was a serious lack of knowledge of the multiple health risks associated with tobacco.
“Most people know that using tobacco causes cancer and lung disease, but many people are not aware that tobacco also causes heart disease and stroke – the world’s leading killers,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
In many countries, this low awareness is substantial. Over 60 percent of the population in China, for example is unaware smoking could cause heart attacks.
The report added that in India and Indonesia, more than half of adults did not know smoking could cause stroke.
The Director-General said they were not only drawing attention to the fact that tobacco “does not just cause cancer, it quite literally breaks hearts”.
Dr. Douglas Bettcher, the WHO Director, Prevention of NCDs, reminded governments that they “have the power in their hands to protect their citizens from suffering needlessly from heart diseases”.
The pace of action in reducing tobacco demand, related deaths and diseases was lagging behind global and national commitments to bring down tobacco use by 30 percent by 2025 among people aged 15 and above.
The report said if the trend continued on the current trajectory, the world would only achieve a 22 percent reduction by 2025.
There are about 1.1 billion adult smokers in the world today and at least 367 million smokeless tobacco users.
The report noted that over a-half of the WHO-member states had reduced demand for tobacco and that almost one in eight were likely to meet the 30 per cent reduction target by 2025.
It encouraged countries to do more to monitor tobacco use in all its forms – not only tobacco smoking.
For the youth, the report said worldwide, about seven percent, or just over 24 million children aged between 13 and 15 years, smoked cigarettes (17 million of them boys and seven million girls).
Dr. Svetlana Axelrod, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for NCDs and Mental Health, said “we know what policies and actions can increase tobacco quit rates, prevent people from starting using tobacco, and reduce demand”.
“We must overcome obstacles to implementing measures like taxation, marketing bans and implementing plain packaging.
Our best chance of success is through global unity and strong multi-sectoral action against the tobacco industry.”