To­bacco kills 7 mil­lion peo­ple a year, butts lit­ter the world

New Straits Times - - World -

Smok­ing and other to­bacco use kills more than seven mil­lion peo­ple each year, the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion said yes­ter­day, also warn­ing of the dire en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of to­bacco pro­duc­tion, dis­tri­bu­tion and waste.

The United Na­tions agency said tougher mea­sures were needed to rein in to­bacco use, urg­ing coun­tries to ban smok­ing in the work­place and in­door pub­lic spa­ces, out­law mar­ket­ing of to­bacco prod­ucts and hike cig­a­rette prices.

“To­bacco threat­ens us all. It ex­ac­er­bates poverty, re­duces eco­nomic pro­duc­tiv­ity, con­trib­utes to poor house­hold food choices and pol­lutes in­door air,” WHO chief Mar­garet Chan said.

In a re­port re­leased ahead of World No To­bacco Day to­day, WHO said the an­nual death toll of seven mil­lion peo­ple had jumped from four mil­lion at the turn of the cen­tury, mak­ing to­bacco the world’s sin­gle biggest cause of pre­ventable deaths.

And the death toll is ex­pected to keep ris­ing, with WHO brac­ing for more than one bil­lion deaths this cen­tury.

“By 2030, more than 80 per­cent of the deaths will oc­cur in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.”

To­bacco use also brings an eco­nomic cost: WHO es­ti­mates that it drains more than US$1.4 tril­lion (RM6 tril­lion) from house­holds and gov­ern­ments each year in health­care ex­pen­di­tures and lost pro­duc­tiv­ity, or nearly two per cent of the global gross do­mes­tic prod­uct.

The re­port for the first time delved into the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of ev­ery­thing from to­bacco pro­duc­tion to the cig­a­rette butts and other waste pro­duced by smok­ers.

“From start to fin­ish, the to­bacco life cy­cle is an over­whelm- in­gly pol­lut­ing and dam­ag­ing process,” WHO as­sis­tant direc­tor-gen­eral Oleg Ch­est­nov said in the re­port.

This is largely due to the amount of wood needed for cur­ing to­bacco, with WHO es­ti­mat­ing that one tree is needed for ev­ery 300 cig­a­rettes pro­duced.

WHO also high­lighted the pol­lu­tion gen­er­ated dur­ing the pro­duc­tion, trans­port and dis­tri­bu­tion of to­bacco prod­ucts.

The re­port es­ti­mates that the in­dus­try emits nearly four mil­lion tonnes of car­bon diox­ide equiv­a­lent an­nu­ally — the same as around three mil­lion transat­lantic flights.

And waste from the process con­tains over 7,000 toxic chem­i­cals that poi­son the en­vi­ron­ment, in­clud­ing hu­man car­cino­gens, WHO said.

Once in the hands of the con­sumer, cig­a­rette butts and other to­bacco waste make up the largest num­ber of in­di­vid­ual pieces of lit­ter in the world, the agency said.

Two thirds of the 15 bil­lion cig­a­rettes sold each day were thrown on to the street or else­where in the en­vi­ron­ment, it said, adding that butts ac­count for up to 40 per cent of all items col­lected in coastal and ur­ban cleanups.


WHO says to­bacco is the world’s sin­gle biggest cause of pre­ventable deaths.

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