GENEVA, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Though the population worldwide protected by tobacco control measures has grown almost five-fold than ten years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday called on countries to do more to prioritize these life-saving policies.
In a latest report on the global tobacco epidemic published on Wednesday, the WHO said about 4.7 billion people, or 63 percent of the world's population, are covered today by at least one comprehensive tobacco control measure. Ten years ago, in 2007, the number was only one billion, or 15 percent of the world's population.
However, tobacco use has still become the leading single preventable cause of death worldwide, killing over seven million people each year. Its economic costs are also enormous, totaling more than 1.4 trillion U.S. dollars in healthcare and lost productivity, according to the WHO.
Meantime, the tobacco industry continues to hamper government efforts to fully implement life- and cost-saving interventions, by, for example, exaggerating the economic importance of the tobacco industry, discrediting proven science, and using litigation to intimidate governments, the report says.
"Governments around the world must waste no time in incorporating all the provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control into their national tobacco control programs and policies," says WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "They must also clamp down on the illicit tobacco trade, which is exacerbating the global tobacco epidemic and its related health and socioeconomic consequences."
The new report, focusing on monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies, finds that only one third of countries have comprehensive systems to monitor tobacco use. It suggests, however, that even countries with limited resources can monitor tobacco use and implement prevention policies.
"Countries can better protect their citizens, including children, from the tobacco industry and its products when they use tobacco monitoring systems," says Dr. Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO's Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases.
"Tobacco industry interference in government policy-making represents a deadly barrier to advancing health and development in many countries," says Dr. Bettcher, "but by monitoring and blocking such activities, we can save lives and sow the seeds for a sustainable future for all."
Controlling tobacco use is a key part of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims, among other targets, to reducing one third of premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases, including heart and lung diseases, cancer and diabetes.