Despite a significant decline in tobacco use worldwide since the beginning of the 21st century, it remains one of the major causes of premature death, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday, marking the World No Tobacco Day.
According to a new WHO report, tobacco kills over 7 million people each year, although the worldwide prevalence of tobacco smoking has dropped between 2000 and 2016 from 27 percent of the world's total population to 20 percent.
That reduction, steady as it is, still lags behind global and national commitments to drag down tobacco use by 30 percent by 2025 among people aged 15 and older, the WHO said, adding the current downward trend, if it continues at the current pace, will only see a 22 percent slide by the target year.
In addition, the awareness of the causal relationship between smoking and cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) has not yet been raised among ordinary people, despite the fact that most people know that smoking can lead to cancer, the WHO warned.
"Most people know that using tobacco causes cancer and lung disease, but many people aren't aware that tobacco also causes heart diseases and stroke -- the world's leading killers," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO.
According to the WHO, cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and stroke, are responsible for 44 percent of NCD deaths, or 17.9 million deaths annually.
Three million people die prematurely every year due to cardiovascular diseases related to tobacco use, including 890,000 deaths through exposure to second-hand smoke, the organization added. A 2005 treaty signed by members of the WHO has been ratified by 180 nations now.
It urges banning tobacco advertisements and sponsorship, as well as imposing taxes to discourage tobacco consumption. "Governments have the power in their hands to protect their citizens from suffering needlessly from heart disease," Douglas Bettcher, WHO Director for Prevention of NCDs, said, suggesting making indoor public spaces completely smoking-free.