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Tip of the iceberg? Not just health hazards, tobacco devastates development

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Shobha Shukla, CNS (Citizen News Service)

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(CNS): Tobacco kills over 7 million people annually. Every tobacco-related disease is preventable, and every tobacco related untimely death could have been averted.

The mountainous tobacco-related disease and death pandemic, which is knowingly propelled by the tobacco industry, could have been prevented. More importantly, if we take into account how tobacco damages our world, it will become more than evident that tobacco health hazards and untimely deaths are only the tip of the iceberg.

That is why the World Health Organization (WHO) had focussed the World No Tobacco Day 2017 on the theme of tobacco is a threat to sustainable development. WHO had said that "Action to stamp out tobacco use can help countries prevent millions of people falling ill and dying from tobacco-related disease, combat poverty and, according to a first-ever WHO report, reduce large-scale environmental degradation."

"Tobacco threatens us all," had said the then WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. "Tobacco exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity, contributes to poor household food choices, and pollutes indoor air."

Dr Tara Singh Bam, Deputy Regional Director (Asia Pacific), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), and member of the WHO Civil Society Working Group for the Third UN High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) around the 73rd UN General Assembly, was on the panel of experts of CNS Webinar on 24th August 2018 on the theme: "Why 73rd UN General Assembly must not ignore tobacco control?" (click here to watch Webinar recording ).

Later this month, heads of 190 countries who will attend the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in September 2018 will debate on the theme around "sustainable societies". Equally noteworthy are two UN High Level Meetings (UNHLMs) happening on 26th and 27th September respectively, to #endTB and #beatNCDs. Tobacco is not just a risk factor for TB and many non-communicable diseases (NCDs), but also threatens sustainable development.

Dr Tara Singh Bam emphasized "Tobacco use kills more than 7 million people every year and costs households and governments over US$ 1.4 trillion through healthcare expenditure and lost productivity."

He added: "Tobacco is a a public health disaster and a cross-cutting development issue. That is why over 180 countries have ratified the legally-binding global tobacco treaty (formally called the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control or WHO FCTC). Implementation of this global tobacco treaty is building up the much needed momentum in the fight against tobacco and providing the foundation for elimination of tobacco."

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