World No Tobacco Day Provides Reminder of Tobacco's Human Costs

Each year the global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people, more than three times the number of people killed by alcohol use, murder and suicide combined. Unless strong action is taken, the epidemic will kill more than 8 million people every year by 2030. The devastating effects of tobacco use are highly preventable and proven interventions such as raising taxes on tobacco; enforcing bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship; graphic warning labels on tobacco products; and implementing smoke-free environments, can help curb the tobacco epidemic.

Saturday, May 31, marks World No Tobacco Day. It is a day designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners to highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocate for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

To help curb the tobacco epidemic, the CDC Foundation has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), WHO, and other national and international partners to support implementation of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS). GATS, supported in part by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, helps countries monitor adult tobacco use and the effectiveness of key tobacco control measures and interventions.

Over the last seven years GATS has been completed in 26 countries, and two countries (Thailand and Turkey) have conducted repeat surveys. Plans are underway to implement additional repeat surveys over the next three years. The repeat surveys provide the trend data necessary for gauging the success of tobacco control efforts over time. Turkey, one of the first countries to repeat GATS, found a 14.6 percent relative decrease in smoking prevalence between 2008 and 2012. This decline was driven by a comprehensive tobacco control program, which included raising its Special Consumption Tax on Tobacco. The encouraging findings from Turkey show that effective interventions can reduce tobacco use.

Monitoring the tobacco epidemic through the implementation of GATS represents a critical component of a comprehensive tobacco control program. These interventions protect present and future generations from the devastating health consequences of tobacco.

Bill Parra is the chief operating officer for CDC Foundation's Tobacco Control Initiatives.