World No Tobacco Day 2021 – WHO Launches Commit To Quit Campaign
As all the countries observe World No Tobacco Day 2021 on 31st May, here are some facts that show why quitters are winners:
- “Over the past three decades, more than 200 million deaths have been caused by smoking tobacco use, and annual economic costs due to smoking tobacco use exceed US$1 trillion.”
- “One in six non-communicable disease-related deaths” are attributable to smoking tobacco.
- “Tobacco control has been identified as a crucial and necessary” part of reaching global goals of 25 per cent reduction in ”premature mortality from non-communicable diseases by 2025 outlined in the WHO global non-communicable disease monitoring framework and a third reduction by 2030 included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.
- “The 10 countries with the largest number of tobacco smokers in 2019, together comprising nearly two-thirds of the global tobacco smoking population, were China, India, Indonesia, the USA, Russia, Bangladesh, Japan, Turkey, Vietnam, and the Philippines”.
Source: Lancet study
In 1987, the WHO’s Health Assembly passed Resolution calling for 7 April 1988 to be “a world no-smoking day”. The objective of the day was to urge tobacco users worldwide to abstain from using tobacco products for 24 hours, an action they hoped would provide assistance for those trying to quit.
Subsequently in 1988, another resolution was passed calling for the celebration of World No Tobacco Day, every year on 31 May. Since then, the WHO has supported World No Tobacco Day every year, linking each year to a different tobacco-related theme.
World No Tobacco Day popularly abbreviated as WNTD is observed around the world every year on 31st May. The annual festivity focusses on creating awareness among the public on the dangers of using tobacco. The awareness also includes the business practices of tobacco companies, the World Health Organization (WHO) initiatives to control tobacco usage.
The day is envisioned to draw attention to the extensive pervasiveness of tobacco use and its adverse health effects. It is estimated that tobacco usage is responsible for more than 8 million deaths each year worldwide. Ironically, it also includes 1.2 million non-smokers who get exposed to second-hand smoke.
Each year, the WHO selects a theme for the day in order to create a more unified global message for WNTD. This theme then becomes the central component of the WHO’s tobacco-related agenda for the following year. The WHO oversees the creation and distribution of publicity materials related to the theme, including brochures, fliers, posters, websites, and press releases. Videos were created as a part of the 2008 WNTD awareness campaign for the theme “Tobacco-free youth” and published on YouTube, and podcasts were first used in 2009.
The theme for 2021 amid ongoing global pandemic of COVID-19 has been decided as Commit to Quit. According to WHO, the smokers have higher risk of deadly viral-infection hence the theme focusses on urging them to quit.
WHO encourages public participation involving several groups around the world to organize events each year in their own way. Some of the past events include letter writing campaigns, marches, public debates, local and national publicity campaigns, anti-tobacco activist meetings, educational programming, and public art.
Additionally, several governments use WNTD as the inception date for bringing new laws and restrictions on tobacco usage and smoking guidelines. For example, Australia imposed complete ban on smoking in government offices & hospitals and became smoke-free on 31st May 2010.
World No Tobacco Day is also used as facilitator for discussing present & future scenario related to tobacco. For example, India has one of the highest tobacco consumptions globally with over 275 million tobacco users. The Government of India launched Smoking Cessation helpline to help curb the widespread addiction in the country.
While mostly people recognize the need of WNTD to curb the ills of tobacco, many others see it as discriminatory too. There is a large section that believes WNTD is a challenge to individual freedom of choice and culturally biased. The section comprises smokers, tobacco cultivators & the tobacco industry.
In order to protest WNTD, the group protests with counter campaigns and events to make their voices heard.
Although the smokers haven’t made any widespread attempt to organise counter WNTD events, few small groups have run some campaigns. For example, an independent journal, the Oregon commentator, hosted Great American Smoke-in to counter Great American Smoke-out in the campus. Similarly, a group from Honolulu, Americans for Freedom of Choice, organised World Defiance day to counter state-wide smoking-ban in restaurants.
The industry has to follow strict guidelines from respective governments including mentioning statuary warning with pictures on tobacco product packings. World No Tobacco Day has not induced a positive vocal response from the tobacco industry. In Uganda, the British American Tobacco company uses the WNTD to run counter-publicity. In 2001, their strategy included events such as a visit with the President of the International Tobacco Growers Association.
Tobacco farming employs huge amount of manpower and is one of the main sources of income for many. As such, the tobacco growers feel that anti-tobacco policies by organizations like WHO endanger their rights. For example, the International Tobacco Growers Association contends that poor farmers in Africa may suffer the consequences if WNTD succeeds. They also maintain that these efforts may gang-up on tobacco manufacturers and an attack on the industry, thereby hurting growers.
As per WHO study, 50% of smokers are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than non-smokers. Let us pledge to quit smoking today for a better tomorrow.
In pursuit of speaking my mind out – chose to write blogs on interesting topics to present my perspective.