BRASILA, Brazil, CMC – The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Monday said an estimated 900 million people, or 96 per cent of the population of the 35 countries of the Americas, including the Caribbean, are currently protected by at least one of the six tobacco control measures recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
It said that the figure is an increase of 50 per cent from 2007, but that progress has not been uniformed.
According to the Report on Tobacco Control for the Region of the Americas 2022, presented here by PAHO, 26 of the region’s 35 countries have achieved the highest level of application of at least one measure; but other measures such as increased tobacco taxes have made slow progress and nine countries have not yet taken any action.
“Tobacco causes nearly a million deaths in the region every year and it is the only legal consumer product that kills up to half of those who use it,” said Dr Anselm Hennis, Director of PAHO’s Department of Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health.
“The response to this enormous threat must be equally aggressive. Control measures work and we must move more quickly to implement all of them,” Hennis added.
The report shows that, in 2021, of 35 countries in the Americas, 24 are implementing measures to protect against exposure to second-hand smoke; 22 require large graphic warnings about the dangers of smoking on tobacco product packages and 10 have surveillance systems with recent, periodic, and representative data on tobacco use by adults and young people.
In addition, six countries offer a comprehensive system to help people quit smoking, nine have established total bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, and three apply indirect taxes to cigarettes that account for 75 per cent or more of the retail price.
PAHO said progress in the application of the six measures known as MPOWER, established by WHO in 2008, has helped reduce the prevalence of tobacco use from 28 per cent of the region’s population in 2000 to 16.3 per cent in 2020, the second lowest in the world.
In 2020, South America became the first smoke-free sub-region of the Americas, where smoking is absolutely prohibited in enclosed public places, in workplaces, and on public transport.
PAHO said tobacco use is the leading risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death in the world, and for the four most preventable and prevalent non-communicable diseases: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease. It said all forms of tobacco are harmful and there is no safe level of exposure.
The PAHO report warns that new and emerging nicotine and tobacco products such as e-cigarettes are becoming increasingly available and accessible, posing a threat to tobacco control. It also warns that the tobacco industry makes misleading claims to increase consumers and enter new markets.
“PAHO/WHO recommends that governments put regulations in place to help prevent non-smokers from starting to use these products, to prevent tobacco use from becoming socially acceptable again, and to protect future generations,” Hennis said.
Currently, the sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems is banned in seven countries in the Americas. Five of these countries and 13 others have taken partial measures to prohibit the use of these systems, limit their advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, and require warnings on their packaging. Fifteen countries do not impose any regulatory framework.