Saving lives by making the world tobacco free
Today is the start of the three-day 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) has taken off in Cape Town, South Africa. Held every three years, WCTOH is the leading international conference on tobacco control on our collective efforts to fight tobacco and improve global health.
This year the conference is attended by WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as well as South Africa Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and Michael R. Bloomberg, a leading actor on tobacco control and WHO Ambassador for Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs). These global leaders will be joined by researchers, academics, non-governmental organisations, civil society, scientists, healthcare professionals and public officials working on all aspects of tobacco control from more than 100 countries.
“This conference is being held at a critical time, both in the war on tobacco and the drive to protect public health,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Globally, tobacco claims more than 7 million lives a year. The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. China, as the biggest tobacco consumer and producer in the world, has been suffering from the huge loss – one million deaths from smoking every year. This includes 100,000 lives lost of non-smokers due to exposure to deadly second-hand smoke.
These lives lost are not just numbers. It can be your husband, wife, kids, friends, colleagues…and the tragedy is compounded by the fact that these losses are entirely preventable if we control tobacco.
“If we could completely eliminate tobacco use today, it would prevent nearly one billion early deaths this century,” said Mr Michael R. Bloomberg.
In China, we are thrilled to see the subnational smoke-free movement is gaining momentum and strength. Three of China’s largest Tier 1 cities (Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen) have become 100% smoke free with strong and effective enforcement benefiting more than 60 million citizens. More recently, the cities of Xi’an and Hangzhou both released the strong draft of city level smoke-free legislation for public comments. Yet, a national smoke-free law that completely bans smoking in all indoor public places, workplaces and public transportation to protect the health of all Chinese is still waiting adoption.
However, everyone can play a role in making a smoke-free environment. For example, business can protect their employees by completely removing smoking from the workplace. Mr Robin Li, the Chairman and CEO of Baidu, dedicated himself to the smoke-free movement for many years, last year re-iterated his commitment to 100% smoke-free workplaces as part of World No Tobacco Day celebrations. This month he called again for a strong national smoke-free law and added his voice has to the discussions in Cape Town.
We should never stop fighting against tobacco, the one of biggest killers in the world. And we should never underestimate what we ourselves can do. Together with government, public health champions, corporate leaders and as individuals, we can make a healthier and better smoke-free world!
“We must focus on accelerating implementation of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) especially in developing countries. Now is the time for countries to live up to their commitments and accelerate implementation of the FCTC. Tobacco not only wrecks health systems it also drains the economy. This tears families apart. This is unacceptable,” said by Dr Tedros.