The World Health Organisation says smoke-free public spaces, one of the policies contained in its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, MPOWER, may help to reduce the tobacco epidemic globally.
WHO noted that MPOWER, introduced in 2008, was meant to monitor tobacco use and prevention policies; protect people from tobacco smoke; offer help to quit tobacco use; warn people about the dangers of tobacco; raise taxes on tobacco and enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.
According to the global health body, smoke-free environments will help people to breathe clean air, shield the public from deadly second-hand smoke, motivate people to quit, denormalise smoking and help prevent young people from embracing smoke or e-cigarette use.
The WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries, and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Michael Bloomberg, said, “While smoking rates have been going down since the emergence of MPOWER, tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death in the world due to relentless marketing campaigns by the tobacco industry.
“As the report shows, our work is making a big difference, but much more remains to be done. By helping more countries implement smart policies, backed by public opinion and science, we will be able to improve public health and save millions of more lives.”
Around 1.3 million people die from second-hand smoke every year and all of these deaths are entirely preventable, he noted, adding that people exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke are at risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, Type 2 diabetes and cancers.
“WHO, therefore, urges all countries to put in place all of the MPOWER measures at a best-practice level to fight the tobacco epidemic, which kills 8.7 million people globally, and push back against the tobacco and nicotine industries, who lobby against these public health measures,” said WHO Director for Health Promotion, Dr. Ruediger Krech.
Nevertheless, the WHO report highlights that 5.6 billion people, 71% of the world’s population, are now protected with at least one best practice policy to help save lives.
Director-General, WHO, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus noted that in the past 15 years since MPOWER tobacco control measures were introduced globally, smoking rates have dropped and without this decline, there would be an estimated 300 million more smokers in the world today.
He said, “This report on the global tobacco epidemic, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, is focused on protecting the public from second-hand smoke, highlighting that almost 40% of countries now have completely smoke-free indoor public places.
“The report rates country progress in tobacco control and shows that two more countries, Mauritius and the Netherlands, have achieved best-practice level in all MPOWER measures, a feat that only Brazil and Türkiye had accomplished until now.”
“These data show that slowly but surely, more and more people are being protected from the harms of tobacco by WHO’s evidence-based best-practice policies.
“I congratulate Mauritius on becoming the first country in Africa, and the Netherlands on becoming the first in the European Union to implement the full package of WHO tobacco control policies at the highest level. WHO stands ready to support all countries to follow their example and protect their people from this deadly scourge.”
The Prime Minister, Republic of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth, said, “With a strong political commitment, we have made great progress in tobacco control policies in Mauritius. Our country has adopted the MPOWER strategy and is moving resolutely towards a smoke-free country.”
Also speaking, State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sports for the Netherlands, Maarten Ooijen, said, “Civil society organisations, health experts and medical professionals are strong driving forces behind everything that we are achieving with regard to tobacco control in the Netherlands.
“They deserve the primary credit for the praise that our country receives from the WHO. Although we are making progress in reducing smoking prevalence and improving our tobacco control policy, we also still have a long way to go. Together we will keep fighting for a smoke-free generation by 2040!”