Smoking and other tobacco consumption kills over seven million people each year, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday.
The UN agency urged for tougher measures to rein in tobacco use, and called for countries to ban smoking in the workplace and indoor public spaces, outlaw marketing of tobacco products and hike cigarette prices.
“Tobacco threatens us all,” WHO chief Margaret Chan said in a statement.
In a report released ahead of World No Tobacco Day today, WHO warned that the annual death toll of seven million people had jumped from four million at the turn of the century, making tobacco the world’s single biggest cause of preventable death. The death toll is expected to keep rising, WHO said, and may touch one billion deaths this century.
“By 2030, more than 80 per cent of the deaths will occur in developing countries, which have been increasingly targeted by tobacco companies seeking new markets to circumvent tightening regulation in developed nations,” Chan said.
“One of the least used, but most effective tobacco control measures is through increasing tobacco tax and prices,” WHO Assistant Director-General Oleg Chestnov said.
For the first time, the WHO report also delved into the environmental impacts of tobacco.
Growing tobacco requires large quantities of pesticides, and was the main cause of deforestation in several countries. The industry emits over 7,000 toxic chemicals that poison the environment, including human carcinogens, WHO said.