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One person dies every six seconds due to smoking - WHO

Cigarette Smoking (photo grabbed from cloudnine.hillarymilesproductions.com)

Tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it kills nearly six million people each year. Most of them are users or ex-users of tobacco and more than 600,000 of them die due to exposure to second-hand smoke.

The consequences of poisoning from tobacco smoking happen gradually. Over the long term, smoking leads people to develop health problems like heart disease, stroke, emphysema (breakdown of lung tissue), and many types of cancer.

"Smoking kills about 5.4 million people each year — one every six seconds — from lung cancer, heart disease or other illness directly linked to tobacco use," said Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative Department.

WHO revealed that there are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer. The smoke from tobacco elicits carcinogenic effects on the tissues of the body that are exposed to the smoke.

Most adult smokers started their smoking habit before the age of 20. Studies showed that early signs of heart diseases and other illness can be found in adolescents who smoke. Long-term health consequences of youth smoking are reinforced by the fact that most young people who smoke regularly continue to smoke throughout adulthood.

In 2008, WHO has introduced a package of tobacco control measures to further counter the tobacco epidemic and to help countries to implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. It is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of people to the highest standard of health.

At present, WHO continually urge countries and national governments to strictly monitor tobacco companies and implement policies that will protect public health from tobacco industry interests.

“In recent years, multinational tobacco companies have been shamelessly fuelling a series of legal actions against governments that have been at the forefront of the war against tobacco. We must now stand together with these governments that have had the courage to do the right thing to protect their citizens,” stressed Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of WHO.