May 31 is the World Health Organization's annual World No Tobacco Day. This year the UN agency called for tougher measures to reduce risks associated with tobacco use.

A photo illustration shows restrictive tobacco packaging on cigarettes in Australia.
A photo illustration shows restrictive tobacco packaging on cigarettes in Australia. (TRT World and Agencies)

Smoking and other tobacco use kills more than seven million people each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said ahead of its annual World No Tobacco Day on Wednesday

It also warned of the dire environmental impact of tobacco production, distribution and waste.

The United Nations agency said that tougher measures were needed to rein in tobacco use, urging countries to ban smoking in the workplace and indoor public spaces, outlaw marketing of tobacco products and hike cigarette prices.

"Tobacco threatens us all," said outgoing WHO Chief Director Margaret Chan, when she released the report on Tuesday. Chan will be replaced by former Ethiopian health minister, Tedros Adhanom in July.

"Tobacco exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity, contributes to poor household food choices, and pollutes indoor air," Chan said.

Death toll jumped

In the report, 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.

And the death toll is expected to keep rising, with WHO bracing for more than one billion deaths this century.

"By 2030, more than 80 percent 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," the WHO said.

According to WHO, tobacco use also has an economic cost. It estimates that it drains more than $1.4 trillion (1.3 trillion euros) from households and governments each year in healthcare expenditures and lost productivity, or nearly two percent of the global gross domestic product.

Environmental impact

In addition to the health and economic costs linked to smoking, the WHO report for the first time delved into the environmental impact of everything from tobacco production to the cigarette butts and other waste produced by smokers.

The report detailed how growing tobacco often requires large quantities of fertilizers and pesticides, and it warned that tobacco farming had become the main cause of deforestation in several countries.

WHO also highlighted the pollution generated during the production, transport and distribution of tobacco products.

The report estimates that the industry emits nearly four million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually - the same as around three million transatlantic flights. And waste from the process contains over 7,000 toxic chemicals that poison the environment, including human carcinogens.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies