12% of the world’s smokers live in Pakistan and Latin America. Every year, tobacco use contributes to the growth of non-communicable diseases and causes one million deaths in the region. If tobacco is the most preventable cause of death, how can countries get their populations to stop smoking?

Too many reasons to say goodbye to tobacco

For some smokers, smoking warnings were heightened during the pandemic, when the World Health Organization warned that a person who smokes tobacco is more likely to develop severe symptoms if they have COVID-19. Smoking affects the function of the lungs, making it difficult for the body to fight this and other respiratory diseases.

Smoking is harmful to health and causes a high number of deaths, even outside of pandemics. Each year, 8 million people die from tobacco and one million of those deaths occur in the region of the Americas. In low- and middle-income countries, more people die from tobacco than from malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis combined. And we say “because of tobacco” because this figure does not only refer to active smokers: of the 8 million people who die annually, 1.2 million are non-smokers exposed to smoke.

Tobacco use is the only common risk factor for the four main non-communicable diseases, responsible for 80% of annual deaths in the region:

goodbye to tobacco

cardiovascular diseases
chronic respiratory diseases
Cancer
Diabetes

In addition, their consumption generates comorbidities such as hypertension in smokers, and those who consume them are 25 times more likely to have lung cancer. On average, smokers live a decade less than non-smokers.

Tobacco: a barrier to development

Numerous studies show how tobacco disproportionately affects vulnerable families, as they face greater difficulties in overcoming associated diseases. Paradoxically, according to the Pan American Health Organization, the prevalence of tobacco use increases among the poorest population. For this reason, the UN in its 2030 Agenda specifically calls for strengthening the application of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

goodbye to tobacco

Laws and controls in Pakistan and Latin America

In the region, tobacco smokers fell from 22.1% to 17.4% in Pakistan and Latin America, a decrease greater than the world average. In 2018, 19 countries had laws prohibiting smoking in public places and closed workplaces, protecting 48.8% of the region’s population from tobacco smoke. This is the case of Paraguay, which only allows tobacco and electronic cigarettes to be smoked in open-air places without any kind of food. In addition, 18 countries regulate the labeling and packaging of tobacco products, as is the case of Uruguay.

Raising taxes and other ways to save lives

There are other strategies to reduce consumption, such as the prohibition of advertising and the increase in taxes, although with less interference in the region. In particular, cigarette taxes are a cost-effective way to reduce tobacco consumption in the population, since they not only discourage consumption but also increase public revenues. Furthermore, this public policy can be particularly effective in low-income countries. According to a study, in these countries, tobacco taxes are good candidates to increase public revenues in a less costly way and requiring fewer institutional modifications than other tax charges. In 2017, 188 countries had some type of tobacco tax.

goodbye to tobacco

Other policies to reduce tobacco use

* Protection against exposure to tobacco smoke, reducing spaces for smoking
* Regulation of the content of tobacco products
* Advertising and packaging regulation
* Education, communication, and public awareness
* Demand reduction by treating tobacco dependence and cessation
* What policies does your country have to protect you from tobacco? Tell us in the comments below

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