Global Tobacco Epidemic

Margaret Chan, WHO Director-GeneralLet me propose a critical priority: tobacco, tobacco, tobacco – we must fight it. We cannot allow tobacco to cause all these deaths … I’ve never seen anything that is allowed to kill its consumers like tobacco.

Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, speaking about Non-Communicable Diseases at Davos 2011

  • Tobacco kills 15,000 people a day – one person every six seconds.
  • It kills more than a third of all users; more than half of its long-term users.
  • 5.4m deaths a year, may kill a billion this century – and wreck the health of many more.
  • As the death clock hit 40 million for the last decade, tougher worldwide action is needed to stop Big Tobacco preying on the poorest.


Philippines bill raises tobacco tax

December 2012: Philippines Congress passes “sin tax” bill which will raise additional AUD$540m excise from tobacco companies. The industry continues to campaign aggressively against the move. Philippine Inquirer 11/12/12

Treaty parties adopt protocol to fight illicit tobacco trade

November 2011: Parties to WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco control adopt new protocol for fighting illicit tobacco trade by international cooperation and controlling supply chains. WHO release 12/11/12

852m tobacco users

August 2012: Largest ever survey of tobacco use shows scale of the world tobacco epidemic – \852 million tobacco users worldwide, mostly in lower income countries heavily targeted by the industry. Study published in The Lancet. Summary: Tobacco-Free Kids 16/8/12

Big tobacco targets Asia-Pacific children

August 2012: As Australia and other wealthier nations move more strongly against tobacco, tobacco giants increasingly target poorer nations in the Asia-Pacific – and especially children – in a “looming humanitarian disaster.”

16-nation smoking survey shows hard fight ahead

August 2012: Survey of tobacco use in 16 countries in The Lancet shows despite progress, the fight to control the worldwide epidemic has far to go – with half of adult men in low-middle income nations using tobacco; women starting to smoke younger; low quit rates.

Vietnam gets tough on tobacco

July 2012: Vietnamese government approves the country’s first-ever comprehensive tobacco control law. Includes smokefree workplaces and public places, few exceptions; large, graphic pack health warnings; restrictions on tobacco advertising, promotion.

Indian rollie trade exploits child workers

June 2012: Worldwide campaign to help young Indian girls, virtual slaves working long hours for paltry pay rolling “beedi” – cheap hand-rolled cigarettes. BBC news 12/6/12

Tobacco death toll almost 6 million a year, says WHO

May 31, 2012 (World No Tobacco Day): Tobacco now kills almost six million people a year, including 600,000 from secondhand exposure. WHO confirmed the figures, pledging to stop tobacco industry interference.

Tobacco diseases getting too little aid

April 2012: Non-communicable chronic diseases – with tobacco the leading culprit – still getting far less aid and attention in developing countries than the problem warrants. Slate, April 2012

World conference steps up fight against tobacco industry interference

March 2012: ASH Australia joins almost 3,000 delegates at 15th World Conference on Tobacco Or Health, Singapore. ASH speaks on countering tobacco industry interference in health policies. Australia is applauded for plain packaging and other reforms. Good progress in many countries towards comprehensive policies to meet world treaty commitments.

WHO chief slams tobacco industry Dirty Tricks

2011: WHO Director-General Margaret Chan slams the tobacco industry for unethical behaviour in trying to block tobacco-free policies including Australia’s plain packs. She attacks industry claims at WHO meeting in Manila, urging countries to “stand firm together, do not bow to pressure… never allow the tobacco industry to get the upper hand”.

Tobacco poisoning thousands of child workers

2011: Thousands of child tobacco workers being “poisoned” – with Malawi just one example of the industry “turning a blind eye to human rights abuses by its suppliers in the quest for greater profit.” One World South Asia report 15/9/11

Tobacco industry interference theme of World No Tobacco Day 2012

2011: The industry’s long history of interfering in public health – blocking, delaying, undermining protection. Australia and all parties to Article 5.3 of WHO’s FCTC treaty pledge to end this. WHO report 2009 WHO chose “Tobacco Industry Interference” as World No Tobacco Day 2012 theme – exposing and countering the industry’s aggressive tactics.

Australia pitches in to help fight against tobacco diseases

2011: Australian government pledges $700,000 to the World Health Organization to help other countries reduce smoking and fight tobacco diseases. Grant will fund an inter-governmental working group on tax and graphic packet health warnings policies. Sydney Morning Herald 21/9/11

China’s uphill battle against tobacco

Sept. 2011: The fight to reduce high smoking rates and youth uptake in China is severely compromised by the government’s involvement in tobacco production. Bloomberg news 21/9/11

World No Tobacco Day 2011 (31 May)

2011 theme was the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Association (SEATCA) calls for united effort of ASEAN nations to fight the epidemic – says the region still a “coveted and vulnerable target of aggressive tobacco companies”.

Tobacco is the world’s leading cause of preventable death: Lancet

2011: Lancet paper says tobacco control is No.1 priority to cut Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) which cause 2/3 of all deaths, 80% of them in lower-income countries – where tobacco adds to poverty, blocks development.

Call for action at world summit on non-communicable diseases

2011: As tobacco deaths rise, world campaign aims to keep it high on UN agenda at 2011 Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). Supporters writing emails to governments to ensure high-level Summit representation.

Asia-Pacific health workers battle Big Tobacco to protect children

2010: What’s needed to counter Big Tobacco interference in regional and Australian health: ASH and others comment. The Australian 6/11/10 and see ASH action guide.

Asia-Pacific conference urges Indonesia to act

2010: Delegates from 41 countries have urged Indonesia to stop dragging the chain and join the worldwide fight – and rock concerts to stop taking tobacco money.

Filipino Islamic Council forbids smoking

2010: Tobacco smoking was placed under an Islamic fatwa by the Supreme Council of Darul Ifta of the Philippines, anyone trading or promoting the “filthy” product guilty of a sin under Sharia’h law.

End smoking by 2020: NZ proposal

2010: Surveys show 64% support ending commercial tobacco sale, so End Smoking NZ trust proposes strategy for reducing smoking, tobacco sales to zero by 2020 with tax/price rises; reducing availability and nicotine content; permitting alternative nicotine products. EndSmokingNZ


Deaths from smoking

Great website from UICC (International Union for Cancer Control) and others. Slideshows on smoking hazards, quitting benefits, middle-aged smokers, world/country impact data, smoking deaths in 40 higher-income countries (including Australia) and by regional and other groupings.

Fair Trade Tobacco Doesn’t Exist

2011 project to encourage WHO to make tobacco farming practices that undermine human rights the theme for World No Tobacco Day 2012. Online repository of photos and videos on tobacco industry exploitation in lower income countries. From Non-profit Fair Trade Tobacco.

Framework Convention Alliance

ASH is a member of this alliance of non-governmental organisations from around the world who worked jointly and separately to support the development of a strong Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and continue to push for effective treaty protocols.

Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)

World Health Organisation treaty to address all areas of tobacco impacts. Australia has ratified it, among hundreds of countries. We have obligations including 100% smokefree workplaces, comprehensively banning all tobacco advertising and promotion through all media, and resisting tobacco industry interference in policy-making. See implementation guide.

Global Tobacco Epidemic 2011: WHO Report

Third report by World Health Organization’s Tobacco Free Initiative on the global tobacco epidemic – its extent and character and measures to stop it. Global and country data on prevalence; impact of demand-reduction measures – especially graphic packet health warnings, mass media campaigns.

Tobacco and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) factsheet

NCDs cause over 75% of all deaths worldwide. 2011 factsheet (2pp) from NCD Alliance outlines the problem and tobacco’s role as a major factor. Features a photo taken by ASH Australia’s Anne Jones in her role as a consultant with the IUATLD (world lung disease union).

What’s a life worth? The truth about tobacco

Snappy 3min video from American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation outlines the global tobacco burden and devious tactics employed by the tobacco industry to addict new users – mostly children. Find out what the industry makes per tobacco death.

WHO Tobacco Free Initiative

Tobacco use kills more than 5 million people per year. It is responsible for 1 in 10 adult deaths. Among the five greatest risk factors for mortality, it is the single most preventable cause of death. See what the World Health Organization is doing about it.

Women and smoking

Women are targets for tobacco companies and tobacco use has a devastating impact on the lives of women worldwide. The international network of women against tobacco is a program of the American Cancer Society.