By Gift Briton

Over five billion people globally (seven out of 10 people) are now protected from the deadly tobacco smoke by at least one tobacco control measure, a new World Health Organization (WHO) report indicates.

Since the introduction of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 15 years ago, the smoking rates worldwide have fallen five times. Also, 40% of countries now have completely smoke-free indoor public places.

The report notes that without these guidelines, there would be an estimated 300 million more smokers in the world today.

However, although many countries continue to make progress in the fight against tobacco, the report highlights that efforts must be accelerated to protect people from the harms of tobacco and second-hand smoke.

According to the report, second-hand tobacco smoke kills more than a million non-smokers every year.

Furthermore, only four countries globally including Brazil, Türkiye, Mauritius and Netherlands have achieved the best-practice level in all the WHO Tobacco control measures.

“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,” Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus-WHO Director-General observed.

He commended Mauritius on becoming the first country in Africa, and 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,” he added.

Pravind Jugnauth, Prime Minister, Republic of Mauritius, stated that strong political commitment enabled the country to made great progress in tobacco control policies.

“Civil society organizations, health experts and medical professionals are strong driving forces behind everything that we are achieving with regard to tobacco control,” Maarten van Ooijen, State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sports for the Netherlands said.

According to him, although the country is making progress in reducing smoking prevalence and improving tobacco control policy, much concerted efforts is needed to achieve a smoke free generation by 2040.

According to the WHO report, smoke-free environments help people breathe clean air, shield the public from deadly second-hand smoke, motivate people to quit, demoralize smoking and help prevent young people from ever starting to smoke or use e-cigarettes.

“While smoking rates have been going down, tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death in the world – largely due to relentless marketing campaigns by the tobacco industry,” Michael Bloomberg Founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, said.

He added: “As this 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’ll be able to improve public health and save millions of more lives.”

Globally, 44 countries remain unprotected by any of WHO’s tobacco control measures and 53 countries still do not have complete smoking bans in healthcare facilities. Meanwhile, only about half of countries have smoke-free private workplaces and restaurants.

“WHO urges all countries to put in place all of the tobacco measures at 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,” Dr Ruediger Krech, WHO, Director for Health Promotion said.