Data compiled over the past two decades has found that all four major non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Tonga are on the rise – diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases. According to the latest WHO data, NCDs accounted for four out of five leading causes of deaths in Tonga, which is among the highest in the Pacific.
The increase in risky behaviors such as smoking, poor diet, harmful alcohol intake, and physical inactivity are acknowledged as the major contributing factors to the rise in NCDs in Tonga. Almost one in two men smoke, and smoking appears to be increasing among young women in Tonga. These are all strongly linked to ‘unhealthy environments’, and require complementary policies, regulations and legislation interventions.
Today we mark World No Tobacco Day and this year the focus is on “Tobacco and Heart Disease.” The goal is to highlight the important and often overlooked role of smoking cigarettes as a leading cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor.
Earlier this month, we attended the 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health , held in Cape Town, South Africa--the first time on the African continent. While we celebrated the effort made by the global community to implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) over the past decade, it was sobering to realize that a greatly intensified and sustained effort is required in the future. Business as usual will not suffice.
Regulating tobacco use using excise taxation, restrictions on smoking in public places, and restrictions on youth access and sale of tobacco products is now a widely-accepted policy action to prevent its harmful health effects. The ruling by the United States Federal District Court that ordered the country’s four largest cigarette makers to make “corrective statements” to inform the public about the harms of cigarettes, including light and low-tar cigarettes, which began on November 26, 2017 for one year, using prime-time television commercials and full-page ads in newspapers, only confirms what is already known on the basis of accumulated evidence over the past half century: the manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery have led to addiction, ill health, and premature mortality and disability among smokers and among those exposed to secondhand smoke. And the recent decision by the Vatican to ban duty-free cigarette sales is a good example of how societal attitude towards tobacco use has changed: a sovereign state is willing to forego revenue from products that clearly harm people's health.
The accumulated evidence over the past half century on the causal relationship between smoking and harm to health provides us with a robust scientific foundation to inform policy design and action.
The real cost of smoking is high, especially high on your health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco kills around 6 million people each year, out of which 600,000 are the results of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. The cost of smoking is also high on the global economy, as smoking burdens global health systems, hinders economic development, and deprives families of financial resources that could have been spent on education, food, shelter, or other needs.
Tobacco use is the world’s leading underlying cause of preventable death. It contributes to a great number of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which account for 63% of all deaths. Prevention of tobacco use can significantly decrease the number of preventable deaths worldwide, encourage economic development, reduce poverty, encourage healthy lifestyle choices and support Sustainable Development Goals.
In order to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use, in February 2014 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put forward a national public education campaign titled “The Real Cost.” The following video is a part of this campaign:
Tobacco is arguably one of the most significant threats to public health we have ever faced. Since the publication of the landmark U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Tobacco and Health in 1964, that provided evidence linking smoking to diseases of nearly all organs of the body (see graph below), the international community slowly began to realize that a century-long epidemic of cigarette smoking was causing an enormous, avoidable public health catastrophe across the world.
For 2016's World No Tobacco Day, celebrated today, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) are calling on countries to get ready for plain packaging of tobacco products. Why, may you ask?