SWITZERLAND – According to the released World Health Organization (WHO) report, more than four times as many people are now covered by at least one WHO-recommended tobacco control MPOWER measure as compared with 2007.
The six MPOWER measures are monitoring tobacco use and preventive measures; protecting people from tobacco smoke; offering help to quit; warning about the dangers of tobacco; enforcing bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and raising taxes on tobacco.
Some 5.3 billion people are now covered by at least one of these measures more than four times the 1 billion who were covered in 2007.
For the first time, the 2021 report presents new data on electronic nicotine delivery systems, such as ‘e-cigarettes’.
These products are often marketed to children and adolescents by the tobacco and related industries that manufacture them, using thousands of appealing flavors and misleading claims about the products.
WHO is concerned that children who use these products are up to three times more likely to use tobacco products in the future.
The Organization recommends governments to implement regulations to stop non-smokers from starting to use them, to prevent renormalization of smoking in the community, and to protect future generations.
“Nicotine is highly addictive. Electronic nicotine delivery systems are harmful, and must be better regulated,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, “Where they are not banned, governments should adopt appropriate policies to protect their populations from the harms of electronic nicotine delivery systems, and to prevent their uptake by children, adolescents and other vulnerable groups.”
E-cigarettes are not proven cessation aids
The tobacco industry has continuously attempted to subvert these life-saving public health measures. Over the last decade, the tobacco industry has promoted e-cigarettes as cessation aids under the guises of contributing to global tobacco control.
Meanwhile, they have employed strategic marketing tactics to hook children on this same portfolio of products, making them available in over 15,000 attractive flavors.
The scientific evidence on e-cigarettes as cessation aids is inconclusive and there is a lack of clarity as to whether these products have any role to play in smoking cessation. Switching from conventional tobacco products to e-cigarettes is not quitting.
Currently, 32 countries have banned the sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and a further 79 have adopted at least one partial measure to prohibit the use of these products, this still leaves 84 countries where they are not regulated or restricted in any way.
The proportion of people using tobacco has declined in most countries, but population growth means the total number of people smoking has remained stubbornly high.
At the moment, of the estimated 1 billion smokers globally, around 80% of whom live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Tobacco is responsible for the death of 8 million people a year, including 1 million from second-hand smoke.
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