May 31 is World No Tobacco Day

May 31, 2022

Did you know smoking is the leading preventable cause of early disease and death in the United States?

World No Tobacco Day is an awareness campaign established by the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise awareness of the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use on our health, as well as to “inform the public about the dangers of using tobacco, the business practices of tobacco companies, what WHO is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic, and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living and to protect future generations.”

This year’s World No Tobacco Day theme is “Tobacco: Threat to our environment” which focuses on the environmental impacts of tobacco and how tobacco not only is poisoning the health of all people, but is also polluting the planet.  The WHO has highlighted the fact that growing, manufacturing and using tobacco poisons our water, soil, beaches and city streets with chemicals and other toxic waste. The WHO is advocating for the tobacco industry to be held responsibility for the environmental destruction and to pay for collection of the waste as well as the destruction it causes. They urge all individuals to quit using tobacco products for both their own health and for the health of the planet, as tobacco smoke contributes to higher air pollution levels and contains three kinds of greenhouse gases. The WHO also is advocating for policymakers to help support tobacco farmers switch to more sustainable livelihoods to help reduce the environmental impact of growing tobacco while continuing to support tobacco control measures.

There are numerous detrimental health impacts of smoking, including its effects on the brain, heart, lungs, and immune system. Every year tobacco kills more than 8 million people, with more than 1 million dying from second-hand smoke exposure.  Tobacco contains more than 7,000 chemicals – one of them being nicotine. Nicotine’s addictive properties are well-established, as are the links between tobacco and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, over 20 types or subtypes of cancer, and other health conditions. It is estimated that 1.3 billion people around the world use tobacco products, 80% of whom are in low- and middle-income countries, and the total economic costs of smoking, including health expenditures and lost productivity, are around $1.4 trillion per year, nearly 2% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).  While the number of tobacco users worldwide has dropped over the last decade and sixty countries are now on track to achieve a 30% reduction in tobacco use by 2025 (up from 32 countries in 2019), there is still more work to be done in reducing tobacco use.

Thinking about quitting?

There are both immediate and long-term health benefits of quitting smoking, regardless of how long you may have been a smoker. Quitting smoking lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, improves circulation and lung function, reduces your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, as well as your risk of lung cancer, and cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix and pancreas. Quitting smoking also extends life expectancy.  Because being tobacco-free is essential for good health, the Vitality program rewards members who submit a negative result from a cotinine screening.  For those individuals who test positive for cotinine, members automatically qualify for an eight-week quit-smoking program called Living Smoke Free, and can earn rewards upon successful completion of the program.

To participate in this year’s World No Tobacco Day events and to learn about what you can do to help support the campaign, visit the World No Tobacco Day website.

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