By Kate Kelland
LONDON (Reuters) – Healthy progress has been made in reducing smoking and tobacco use, but governments need to do more to help the world’s 1.1 billion smokers quit, the World Health Organization said on Friday.
Tobacco use has also declined proportionately in most countries, the WHO said in a report. But population growth means the number of people using tobacco remains stubbornly high. Around 80 percent the world’s 1.1 billion smokers live in poor and middle-income countries.
“Quitting tobacco is one of the best things any person can do for their own health,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general.
He said governments that introduced anti-smoking policies such as raising taxes on cigarettes and banning tobacco advertising were providing “the practical tools to help people kick the habit, adding years to their life.”
Smoking and other tobacco use kills more than 7 million people a year globally, latest WHO data show. Many of these deaths are from heart disease, stroke and other diseases, as well as from lung and other types of cancer.
The WHO report found that some 5 billion people live in countries that have introduced smoking bans, graphic warnings on packaging and other effective tobacco controls – four times more people than a decade ago.
But many countries are still not adequately implementing policies, it said. It urged governments to make greater effort to introduce six key anti-tobacco measures it calls MPOWER, which include free services for people wanting to quit, protecting people from tobacco smoke, graphic danger warnings, higher tobacco taxes and advertising bans.
The report found that 36 countries have introduced one or more MPOWER measure at the highest level.
Only 23 countries have implemented quit-smoking support policies at the highest level, it found, but 116 more fully or partly cover the cost of services and another 32 offer services but do not cover their cost.
More than half the world’s population – 3.9 billion people in 91 countries – now see large graphic warnings on packs of cigarettes and other tobacco products, the report found.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Larry King)