May. 31 2000
Washington, DC — The World Health Organization, in an effort to counter tobacco addiction and its deadly effects around the globe, today is sponsoring its annual World No Tobacco Day. This year's theme, "Tobacco Costs Too Much: Quit the Dependency," draws attention to the personal and societal costs of tobacco in terms of death, disease, lost productivity, and money spent treating tobacco-related illnesses. This theme underscores the need for effective policies at all levels of government - international, national, state and local - that treat nicotine as the addictive drug that it is, prevent children and adults from starting to smoke, and help current smokers to quit.
The costs of tobacco are of truly epidemic proportions. This year, more than 400,000 Americans and about 3.5 million people worldwide will die from tobacco-related disease. And by 2030, 10 million people will be dying each year from tobacco use, if current trends continue. Every day in the United States, 6,000 children pick up a cigarette for the first time, and 3,000 of them become daily smokers. One-third of these young Americans will die prematurely from tobacco-caused disease. Each year, the United States spends some $90 billion in private and public funds treating tobacco-related illnesses.
With concerted action, governments around the world can prevent millions of premature deaths and protect future generations from falling victim to the tobacco epidemic. In the U.S., Congress must grant the Food and Drug Administration meaningful authority to regulate tobacco, including the authority to restrict tobacco industry advertising that recent studies show continues to be aimed directly at children. At the state level, legislators and governors need to invest proceeds from the 1998 tobacco settlement in comprehensive tobacco prevention programs that have been proven to work in states such as Florida and Massachusetts that have implemented them.
At the international level, it must be a priority of the U.S. government to work with the World Health Organization, other nations and international organizations to negotiate and implement an effective Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that will address this public health crisis. The tobacco epidemic is global in scope and must be confronted on a global basis.
The devastating death toll and other costs of tobacco need not occur if governments can muster the political will to prevent this avoidable tragedy. That is our challenge on World No Tobacco Day 2000.