Many say they couldn’t survive without a cigarette, but World No Tobacco Day gives everyone an opportunity to give quitting a go.
World No Tobacco Day is an initiative run by the World Health Organization (WHO) designed to draw attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and its negative health effects. This annual event aims to inform the public about the dangers of smoking or chewing tobacco and make them aware of the under-handed business practices of tobacco companies.
Why should we care about tobacco?
WHO undertakes a great deal of work in fighting the global tobacco epidemic. A large part of this work involves educating the public about the manipulative tactics tobacco companies use to ‘dupe’ people into smoking their products.
Tobacco companies spend billions of dollars on advertising each year, portraying people who smoke as being cool, glamorous, macho, and more. In truth, cigarettes are highly engineered products which are designed to cause addiction. Whilst there are more restrictions on how tobacco companies can advertise their products in developed countries such as Australia, Canada, the United States and Britain, in other parts of the world people are still subjected to the more aggressive and manipulative advertising tactics we once saw. While these countries continue to have fewer restrictions, international sales will keep big tobacco companies going.
Cigarettes are addictive because of the presence of nicotine in the tobacco. Over the years, executives from the major tobacco companies have repeatedly tried to deny this.
Tobacco use kills at least 1 out of 10 people worldwide every year, but the number of tobacco users around the world is still 1.3 billion, says WHO. It suggests that it is possible to control roughly 100 million premature deaths by reducing tobacco consumption by 20-25% before 2020. This could be achieved by applying all the usual anti-smoking efforts and measures such as banning TV or radio advertising for tobacco. Countries could also launch new and effective public awareness campaigns displaying the dangers of smoking in public and the necessity to stop smoking where others can be affected.
Tobacco is used in many forms around the world – for example cigarettes, cigars, bidis, creamy snuff (toothpaste), kreteks, pipes, gutkha, chewing tobacco, hand rolling tobacco, snuff, water pipes, snus powder, and many more – so it is necessary to ban the use of tobacco products as well.
WHO noted that in China, more than 50% of men are smokers. Therefore it urges the governments of each and every country to take effective measures on regional and national levels to reduce the health and financial effects of tobacco consumption. This can be done, according to WHO, by applying anti-smoking policies such as raising the tobacco taxes, limiting the sale, purchase, advertisement, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco or its products, organising public health check-up camps to evaluate the dangers of smoking, and much more.
Cigarettes: Get Ready for Plain Packaging
This year, World No Tobacco Day takes place on Tuesday, 31st May. As it has been every year since its inception in 1987, the global event will have a theme. This year countries will be urged to ‘Get Ready for Plain Packaging’ of tobacco products.
Plain packaging is an important “demand reduction” measure. It reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products, restricts the use of tobacco packaging as a form of advertising, limits misleading packaging and labelling, and increases the effectiveness of health warnings.
We already have plain packaging in place in Australia, thanks to government intervention. Our declining domestic smoking rates are likely the result of sustained tobacco control strategies – including a mixture of high tobacco taxes, advertising bans, plain packaging laws, mass media public education campaigns, and smoke-free environment legislation.
World No Tobacco Day 2016
As one of the most recognised events in the world, No Tobacco Day reflects the differences in member countries of the WHO and events are organised and run with significant variation. The event aims to draw public attention globally to spread the message of the harmful effects of tobacco use and the complications to others through passive smoking.
State and federal governments, public health organisations, non-government organisations and local groups usually run public awareness programs in the lead-up to the day. Events on the day may include:
- Public marches
- Demonstration programs
- Big banners
- Advertising campaigns through educational programs
- Direct verbal communication with the public to encourage and promote quitting smoking
- Anti-tobacco activities
- Public art
- Health camps
- Rallies calling on governments worldwide to implement new laws to restrict smoking
In Australia, the event is keenly backed by our government through its health organisations. Also joining them are the Cancer Council, Stroke Foundation, Lung Foundation, Quitline, and others who enthusiastically embrace the day that encourages people to stub out.
If you want to support this important global day, you can download the publicity materials available on the World Health Organisation website, such as themed brochures, posters, flyers and press releases: www.who.int/tobacco/wntd/en/