Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

World No Tobacco Day 2001

Second-hand smoke kills. Let’s clear the air.

Second-hand smoke is a real and significant threat to public health. Supported by two decades of evidence, the scientific community now agrees that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.

Second-hand smoking has been causally associated with a range of life-threatening health effects, including lung cancer and heart disease. For children, the situation is particularly disturbing, as involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke has been identified as a cause of respiratory disease, middle ear disease, asthma attacks, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Tobacco smoke is also an important source of indoor air pollution, contributing to a noxious environment, and causing eye irritation, sore throat, cough, and headache.

The evidence is in, let us act on it.

Clear the air around tobacco industry deception

Tobacco companies have two faces: what they admit in private, and what they deny in public. Despite decades of scientific evidence that second-hand smoke is toxic, and despite confirmation by their own scientists, the tobacco companies have been publicly denying that second-hand smoke causes death and disease. In private though, they has identified second-hand smoke as a crucial battleground, one that could threaten the viability of the industry itself. A secret study commissioned by them in 1978 concluded that:

"What the smoker does to himself may be his business, but what the smoker does to the non-smoker is a different matter...This we see as the most dangerous development yet to the viability of the tobacco industry that has yet occurred." Roper Organization, 1978.

As part of their corporate strategy, tobacco companies have consistently fought regulations and legislation that could protect people from second-hand smoke. They have spent millions of dollars hiring lobbyists, attacking legitimate scientific research, buying scientists, producing bogus studies, and creating controversy about second-hand smoke.

A 1988 memo from a joint meeting of several tobacco companies confirmed that:

"[Philip Morris’ world wide strategy is to co-ordinate and pay so many scientists on an international basis to keep the environmental tobacco smoke controversy alive."

We know their strategy, let us counter it.

Publicize, mobilize and organize now for World No Tobacco Day

The World Health Organization and its partners have a responsibility to ensure that the truth about second-hand smoke emerges loud and clear. We have a responsibility to promote public health and protect people from second-hand smoke.

We need to create a climate where second-hand smoke is recognized as an issue of major importance, particularly among policy-makers, media, and local government officials. Mass media campaigns, educational programmes, and partnerships with key organizations, including nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and UN agencies, should be initiated. We need to stimulate policies and programmes to tackle the problem with the seriousness it deserves. Smoke-free environments in public places, workplaces, and homes through a combination of legislation and education should be promoted.

World No Tobacco Day is also your process, your project

World No Tobacco Day is organized by WHO and actions will be taken on a global level, but the key to a successful and sustainable campaign will be local mobilization around the issue. Work with your local women’s organizations, children’s advocacy groups, business associations, trade unions, consumer groups or local governments to initiate action on second-hand smoke. Pick an approach that is most appropriate to your region and start planning your projects now.

Because local policies play a major role in determining public health, WHO is urging mayors of cities all over the world to launch "Second-hand smoke kills--Let’s clear the air" campaigns on tobacco and the persistent problem of second-hand smoke. Tobacco control is an ongoing process, and mayors are urged to begin their campaigns immediately to ensure sustained results. Help your city and mayor shape the focus of the campaign on second-hand smoke. Make your voice heard on what is appropriate for your city, whether it is an implementation of bans on smoking in workplaces, restaurants, schools, hospitals, airports, government buildings, or even a smoke-free city hall or legislature.

WHO’s 191-Member States have begun negotiations on the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, ( WHO FCTC), the world's first legally binding health treaty. The convention will provide global protection for countries and people against the enormous health and social costs of tobacco-related death and disease.

Local actions taken by you and your organization to protect people from second-hand smoke are an essential complement to the international negotiations on the WHO FCTC.