World No-Tobacco Day (WNTD) was observed May 31 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners with a campaign encouraging a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption around the globe, and drawing public attention to the negative health effects of tobacco use. Nearly six million deaths a year worldwide are caused by smoking, including 600,000 that result from non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
The WHO member states created the WNTD in 1987. On this day every year, WHO and its partners mark the day around the year’s theme. Past activities have included letter writing campaigns to government officials and local newspapers, marches, public debates, local and national publicity campaigns, anti-tobacco activist meetings, educational programming, and public art.
This year, with the theme “Tobacco – a Threat to Development,” the WNTD campaign sought to demonstrate the threats that tobacco poses to the sustainable development of countries and proposed measures that government and the public should take. The 2017 WNTD campaign sought to emphasize the links between the use of tobacco products, tobacco control, and sustainable development. It urged countries to include tobacco control in their national responses to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda; supported member states and civil society in combating tobacco industry interference in political processes; encouraged broader public and partner participation in national, regional, and global efforts to develop and implement development strategies and plans to make a sustainable tobacco-free world.
Like any other worthwhile activities, the success of this campaign does not rest on the government efforts alone. Much depends on the public, on people who can commit to never take up tobacco products, on those who quit so that, in the process, they not only protect their health but also that of other people especially their loved ones who would otherwise be exposed to second-hand smoke.
The WHO posits that money not spent on tobacco can be channeled to other essential uses, including the purchase of healthy food, healthcare, and education.