Washington, D.C., 30 May 2019 (PAHO/WHO) – Tobacco control measures, particularly those to ensure smoke-free public and work spaces, must be urgently stepped up in order to protect the health of the people of the Americas, says the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), regional branch for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Tobacco use has a major impact on health, killing one person every 4 seconds globally, and one person every 34 seconds in the Americas. This accounts for a total of 8 million deaths worldwide each year, with almost 1 million in the Region. Over half of lung cancer cases are related to tobacco, as are almost half of the cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“Tobacco is a threat to the lung health of everyone, not just smokers”
The campaign for this year’s World No Tobacco Day, “tobacco and lung health”, focuses on how tobacco endangers lung health all over the world, and the importance of implementing effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption and exposure.
“Tobacco is a threat to the lung health of everyone, not just smokers,” said Dr Hennis, Director of the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health at the Pan American Health Organization. “Every single death related to tobacco use or exposure is preventable. However, while the use of tobacco is declining in the Region, the pace of action to reduce tobacco use continues to lag behind global and regional commitments,” he added.
In order to reduce the threat of tobacco, countries must take urgent action to step up the implementation of the tobacco control measures outlined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which are reinforced by the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. “The implementation of these measures, particularly those relating to smoke-free indoor workplaces, public places, and public transport; implementing large health warnings, as well as the provision of services for those looking to quit tobacco, are vital to ensuring a smoke-free Americas,” said Rosa Sandoval, Regional Advisor for Tobacco Control at PAHO.
Tobacco use and lung health
As well as being a major risk factor for lung and other pulmonary cancers in the Americas, tobacco use also causes and exacerbates a wide range of other diseases of the lung.
Tobacco use is responsible for 46% of deaths from COPD, a progressive lung disease that causes breathlessness and chronic cough. One in five smokers will develop COPD in their lifetime and adults who were exposed to second-hand smoke during childhood are also at increased risk due to impaired lung growth and function.
Tobacco is also a contributing factor to other lung diseases, including tuberculosis (TB) and asthma. Globally, 20% of all deaths from tuberculosis are attributable to smoking, and in the Region of the Americas, this figure stands at 15%. Smoking more than doubles the risk of transforming latent TB infections, which affect around a quarter of the people worldwide, into active disease. Tobacco smoke is also one of the major triggers for the development or progression of asthma and is responsible for around one in nine asthma-related deaths in the Americas.
Improving lung health
No level of exposure to tobacco smoke is risk-free. The best way to prevent respiratory disease and improve lung health globally is to avoid tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.
The FCTC provides a strong, concerted response to the global tobacco epidemic and its health, social, environmental and economic implications. To help countries implement this, WHO introduced the MPOWER measures which include monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies; prohibiting tobacco smoke in indoor public spaces, workplaces and public transport; help to quit tobacco use; large health warnings on all tobacco products; bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and raising taxes on tobacco. The adoption in 2017 of the Strategy and Plan of action to strengthen tobacco control in the Region of the Americas 2018-2022 by all countries in the Region, confirmed their commitment to public health through tobacco control.
Tobacco and lung health by numbers in the Region of the Americas
- Lung cancer is the third leading cause of cancer with 342,518 new cases reported in 2018
- Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths – 65% of deaths due to tracheal, bronchus and lung cancer are attributable to smoking
- Tobacco use caused almost 1 million deaths in 2017 – 1 person every 34 seconds
- Over 93,000 deaths are caused by exposure to second-hand smoke
- Almost half of deaths from COPD are attributable to smoking and 5% to second-hand smoke
- In 2017, 243,000 new cases of TB were registered. Around 15% of TB deaths are attributable to smoking
- In 2017, almost 13,000 people died from asthma. Approximately, 12% of these deaths were due to smoking.