New Delhi: Tobacco use and passive smoking are major causes of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and stroke, causing approximately three million deaths every year, revealed a World Health Organization (WHO) report released on Thursday.
The Global Report on Trends in Prevalence of Tobacco Smoking 2000-2025 also said that tobacco kills over seven million people every year, despite a steady fall in tobacco use, globally. While in 2000, 27% of the world population were smokers, the figure dropped to around 20% in 2016. However, there is serious lack of knowledge of the multiple health risks associated with tobacco, the study said.
While many people were aware of the fact that tobacco use increases the risk of cancer, there are alarming gaps in knowledge of the cardiovascular risks associated with tobacco use, the report added.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, more than half of adults Indians did not know smoking can cause stroke. Similarly, in China, over 60% of the population was unaware of the fact that smoking can cause heart attacks.
“Most people know that using tobacco causes cancer and lung diseases, but many people are not aware that tobacco also causes heart disease and stroke – the world’s leading killers," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.
According to the report, tobacco use has declined markedly since 2000, but the reduction is insufficient to meet globally agreed targets aimed at protecting people from death and suffering from cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
“Measures that reduce the risks to heart health posed by tobacco, include making all indoor public and workplaces completely smoke-free, and promoting the use of tobacco package warnings that demonstrate the health risks of tobacco," said Douglas Bettcher, WHO director for prevention of NCDs.
The report said that currently there are 1.1 billion adult smokers in the world, and at least 367 million smokeless tobacco users. The number of smokers in the world has barely changed this century. It was also 1.1 billion in 2000. This is due to population growth, even as prevalence rates decline. Around 6.5% of the global population aged 15 and above use smokeless tobacco, that is, 8.4% of males and 4.6% of females.
Worldwide, about 7%, or just over 24 million children aged 13–15, smoke cigarettes—17 million boys and 7 million girls. About 4% of children aged 13–15 years (13 million) use smokeless tobacco products. Over 80% of tobacco smokers live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICS). Prevalence of smoking is decreasing more slowly in LMICs than in high-income countries, and the number of smokers is on the increase in low-income countries, the report stated.
According to estimates by the ministry of health and family welfare, at least 2,500 of the 3,750 deaths due to tobacco use every day, are caused due to smoking.
“The best way to prevent people from tobacco is higher taxation on tobacco products. According to the Global Tobacco Atlas, the WHO’s benchmark is raising taxes to minimum 70% of the retail price, but in India it is at 26.46%. We need to raise the taxes to three times of the current percentage," said Ravi Mehrotra, director at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)-National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research.