A new report from the World Health Organization says millions of lives are being saved globally through continued efforts to discourage people from smoking, but "relentless marketing campaigns by the tobacco industry" mean smoking is still the world's leading cause of preventable death.
The WHO champions a set of measures known as MPOWER that aim to save lives and reduce the cost of tobacco-related health issues. MPOWER consists of monitoring tobacco use, protecting people from smoke, offering help to stop tobacco use, warning of its dangers, enforcing promotion bans, and raising taxes as a discouragement.
The report says 5.6 billion people, or 71 percent of the world's population, benefit from at least one of the measures, which is five times as many people as in 2007.
"As this report shows, our work is making a big difference, but much more remains to be done," said Michael Bloomberg, WHO global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases and injuries, and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which supported the report. "By helping more countries implement smart policies, backed by public opinion and science, we'll be able to improve public health and save millions of more lives."
Mauritius and the Netherlands were praised for having reached best-practice levels in each MPOWER measure, something only previously achieved by Brazil and Turkiye. Ethiopia, Iran, Ireland, Jordan, Madagascar, Mexico, New Zealand and Spain are all just one measure away from completing the process.
"These data show that slowly but surely, more and more people are being protected from the harms of tobacco by WHO's evidence-based best-practice policies," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "I congratulate Mauritius on becoming the first country in Africa, and the Netherlands on becoming the first in the European Union, to implement the full package of WHO tobacco control policies at the highest level."
Since their introduction 15 years ago, MPOWER measures have led to an estimated 300 million fewer people around the world smoking, but there are still 44 countries that have none of the measures in place. In 53 countries, smoking is still permitted in healthcare facilities.
According to the report, each year around 1.3 million people die as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke, which increases the risk of problems, including stroke, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.
"WHO urges all countries to put in place all of the MPOWER measures at a best-practice level to fight the tobacco epidemic," said Ruediger Krech, WHO director for health promotion.