Every year, May 31 is designated World No Tobacco Day by the World Health Organization as a way to call attention to the international toll of sickness and death caused by smoking and to advocate for polices that are effective in reducing tobacco use. Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally and is currently responsible for 10 percent of adult deaths worldwide. That’s 6 million annually, including 600,000 nonsmokers who had exposure to secondhand smoke.
Against strong opposition from tobacco companies, nations in every hemisphere are taking action to fight this epidemic. Fifty nations have comprehensive indoor smoking bans in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants. More than 40 countries now require graphic pictorial warnings on every pack of cigarettes, both front and back. In 2012, Australia became the first country to require generic packaging in addition to graphic warnings. China is one of 70 countries that prohibit the use of misleading terms such as “mild”, “low tar” and “light.” Countries as diverse as Brazil, Kenya and Nepal have a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion. Thirteen countries, including Ireland, Canada, Thailand and New Zealand, now require tobacco to be kept out of sight in all stores that sell it.