Every year on May 31st, countries across the globe observe World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), which is meant to draw attention to the harmful health effects of tobacco and encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from tobacco products. According to a statement by Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Tobacco use, the major preventable cause of premature death and disease worldwide, represents a public health catastrophe. Globally, tobacco use is projected to cause a billion deaths in this century.”
WNTD was created in 1987 after the World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) passed a resolution calling for a “world no-smoking day” which would be celebrated every year with a different tobacco related theme. The themes create a more unified global message for WNTD events around the world, helping set the tobacco-related agenda for the following year.
The theme for WNTD 2011 is “The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” which is a treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO that is comprised of several tobacco control requirements. The framework has been in effect since 2005, and is already one of the most rapidly embraced treaties in the history of the United Nations with more than 170 parties conferring to its legal obligations. WHO hopes that this year’s WNTD will urge countries to put the treaty at the heart of their tobacco control efforts and highlight its overall importance in protecting present and future generations from the devastating consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is celebrating WNTD by releasing new global data from 14 countries regarding warning labels on cigarette packages and their effect on smokers’ interest in quitting. Using 2008-2010 data from the Global Adult Tobacco Surveys, researchers found that in the 14 countries who had warning labels, most smokers (more than 90%) reported noticing a cigarette package warning and there was wide variation in thinking about quitting because of the warning ( ranging from 76.6% of Brazilian women to 16.1% of Polish men). Additionally, concurrent with WNTD, the CDC released a new interactive web application—Global Tobacco Surveillance System Data (GTSSData). It provides tobacco-related data that can be used to support countries’ capacities to monitor tobacco use and guide national prevention and control efforts.
The World Health Organization hopes that WNTD 2011 will encourage countries across the globe to step up their tobacco prevention and control efforts and reduce the toll of tobacco related-diseases and deaths worldwide.
Tobacco Control Team