G-20 leaders pledged to provide the International Monetary Fund with $500 billion to help struggling economies, sparking global controversy. Yet startling research shows that the combined costs of tobacco-related death and related productivity losses, healthcare expenditures, employee absenteeism, and widespread environmental harm are responsible for draining the same amount – $500 billion – from the global economy each year and it receives much less attention than it deserves.
In recognition of World No Tobacco Day on 31st May, the World Heart Federation insists on bringing more attention to the impact of tobacco on health and disease. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and is closely linked to cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide. In 2010, it is estimated that six million people will die from the effects of tobacco – more than from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined – and nearly three-quarters (72%) will be in low- and middle-income countries. Using tobacco causes clogging of the arteries, heart disease, stroke, sudden death and heart failure.
Dr. Pekka Puska, President of the World Heart Federation stated: “This year we embrace the WHO theme of tobacco health warnings and demand that the tobacco industry display pictorial warnings on all tobacco packages in order to clearly and effectively communicate tobacco’s deadly consequences.”
Studies show that pictorial warnings work: they effectively motivate users to quit and reduce the appeal of tobacco for those who are not yet addicted. The World Heart Federation supports its members around the world to advocate for pictorial labeling, working with Ministries of Health, the media and businesses. But 9 out of 10 people live in countries that do not require warnings with pictures on tobacco packages.
One successful example is in the Caribbean. Debbie Chen, Executive Director of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, coordinates a coalition of partners, which includes the Heart and Stroke Foundation of the Barbados and the InterAmerican Heart Foundation, with a Bloomberg Award grant for Global Tobacco Control. She said: “We were convinced that labeling could help us when we read research from other countries. We have accelerated the process in the region and are determining which warnings will have the strongest impact in four Caribbean countries.”
Worldwide, tobacco control is one of the simplest ways to reduce cardiovascular disease; in low-resource settings its feasibility and cost-effectiveness only magnifies its importance.
About World No Tobacco Day and Warnings
To know more about the World No Tobacco Day, and download toolkits, please visit: http://www.who.int/tobacco/wntd/2009. To know more about the Framework Convention, please visit: http://www.fctc.org. To know more about countries that are working on ensuring tobacco products have pictorial labels, please visit: http://www.tobaccolabels.ca/labelima
About the World Heart Federation
The World Heart Federation, a nongovernmental organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, is committed to helping the global population achieve a longer and better life through prevention and control of heart disease and stroke, with a particular focus on low- and middle-income countries. It is comprised of 198 member societies of cardiology and heart foundations from over 100 countries covering the regions of Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas and Africa.
For further information on World Heart Federation visit: http://www.worldheart.org
– The Tobacco Atlas, Third Edition, March 2009, http://www.TobaccoAtlas.org
– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The health consequences of smoking: A report of the Surgeon General, http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/Data_statistics/sgr/sgr_2004/index.htm
– Oxford Health Alliance, http://www.oxha.org
– Tobacco Free Initiative, World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/tobacco/en/index.html
World Heart Federation
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