By Opija Raduk

Today is World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) observed around the world every year on 31st May. It is intended to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption around the globe.

World Health Organization (WHO) says this day is intended to draw attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and negative health effects that are currently responsible for more than 8 million deaths each year worldwide. This includes 890 000 of which are passive smokers.

According to the US Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tobacco smoke is a toxic mix of nearly 7000 chemicals, of which 70 cause cancer in people and animals.

The focus of World No Tobacco Day 2019 is on “tobacco and lung health.” The campaign aims to increase awareness on: the negative impact that tobacco has on people’s lung health, from cancer to chronic respiratory disease, the fundamental role lungs play for the health and well-being of all people.

This campaign also serves as a call to action, advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption and engaging stakeholders across multiple sectors in the fight for tobacco control.

As this day is marked, WHO highlights the damage tobacco causes to lung health: over 40 percent of all tobacco-related deaths are from lung diseases like cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and tuberculosis. WHO is calling on countries and partners to increase action to protect people from exposure to tobacco.

“Every year, tobacco kills at least 8 million people. Millions more live with lung cancer, tuberculosis, asthma or chronic lung disease caused by tobacco,” says WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Healthy lungs are essential to living a healthy life. Today – and everyday – you can protect your lungs and those of your friends and family by saying no to tobacco.”

A study conducted by WHO reveals that in 2017, tobacco killed 3.3 million users and people exposed to second-hand smoke from lung-related conditions, including 1.5 million people dying from chronic respiratory diseases, 1.2 million deaths from cancer (tracheal, bronchus and lung) and 600 000 deaths from respiratory infections and tuberculosis.

More than 60 000 children aged under 5 die of lower respiratory infections caused by second-hand smoke. Those who live on into adulthood are more likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) later in life.

The number of Kenyans aged over 15 who use tobacco products-including manufactured cigarettes and cigars, hand-rolled cigarettes, pipes, shisha, snuff, chewed tobacco and kuber-declined marginally from 9 percent in 2012 to 8 percent in 2017, shows a 2018 National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) study.

WHO is urging countries to fight the tobacco epidemic through full implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and enforcing effective tobacco control actions.

The Organization also encourages parents and community leaders to take steps to safeguard the health of their families and communities by informing them of and protecting them from the harms caused by tobacco. Contact: