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Media Statement

For Immediate Release: July 7, 2011
Contact: CDC Online Newsroom
(404) 639-3286

Statement by Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Regarding WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2011

Today's World Health Organization (WHO) Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2011 documents that in the past two years, more than 1 billion people around the world have been newly protected by tobacco control interventions, including mass media campaigns, graphic health warnings, and smoke-free policies. In addition, there has been significant progress toward protecting children and adults from tobacco in countries throughout the world.

Large and graphic warning labels and hard-hitting mass media campaigns have proven effective in reducing tobacco use and encouraging people to quit. According to the report, more than 1 billion people now live in countries with legislation requiring large graphic health warnings on every cigarette pack sold in their countries, and 1.9 billion people live in the 23 countries that have aired high-quality national anti-tobacco mass media campaigns within the past two years. During this time in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration proposed and recently issued final requirements for more prominent, graphic cigarette health warnings on all cigarette packaging and advertisements in the United States. A number of mass media campaigns in the U.S. also were conducted at national, state, and community levels.

According to the report, national-level smoke-free laws covering all public places and workplaces have been newly enacted by 16 countries with a total of 385 million people; an additional 100 million people are newly protected by comprehensive smoke-free laws at the sub-national level. In the United States over the past decade, 25 states and the District of Columbia enacted laws for smoke-free workplaces, bars and restaurants. However, despite increased adoption of state and local smoke-free laws, approximately 88 million nonsmoking Americans aged 3 and older are still exposed to secondhand smoke each year. More than half of children over age 3 are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Unfortunately, the report also noted that though global governments collect nearly $133 billion in tobacco excise tax revenue, less that $1 billion is actually spent on tobacco control. In the United States, between 2000 and 2009, states collected $203.5 billion from tobacco settlement funds and tobacco taxes. However, currently only 2 percent of this year's tobacco-generated revenues ($25.3 billion) are dedicated to state tobacco prevention and cessation programs; 14.6 percent would be needed to fully fund state tobacco control programs at CDC-recommended levels.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of premature disease and death in the world. About half of all current smokers will die prematurely from smoking-related causes. In the 20th century, the tobacco epidemic killed 100 million people worldwide; during the 21st century, it will kill more than 1 billion unless urgent action is taken. Containing this epidemic is one of the most important public health priorities of our time.

Other highlights of this report include:

  • The greatest progress in tobacco control in terms of population coverage has been in countries adopting health warnings on tobacco packaging; three more countries with a total population of 458 million have enacted pack labeling laws.
  • An additional 115 million people are living in countries with the recommended minimum tobacco taxes, and 26 countries and one territory now have taxes constituting the recommended minimum of 75 percent of retail price.
  • Low- and middle-income countries have been in the forefront of developing anti-tobacco mass media campaigns, showing that countries can successfully implement this intervention regardless of income classification.

To combat the tobacco epidemic, the CDC and WHO recommend MPOWER, a set of six proven strategies: Monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies; Protecting people from tobacco smoke; Offering help to quit tobacco use; Warning about the dangers of tobacco; Enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and Raising taxes on tobacco.

CDC oversees the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, which produces national and sub-national estimates on tobacco use and key tobacco control indicators among adults aged 15 and older, and the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, a school-based survey designed to monitor tobacco use and key tobacco control indicators among youth aged 13-15 years. Data from both surveys were used in compiling the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2011 report.


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