WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2011: warning about the dangers of tobacco
Question: The theme of the WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2011 is "warning about the dangers of tobacco". Where's the evidence that large, graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging work?
Answer: The evidence is strong that large, graphic health warnings work.
For example, during 2008-2010, the global adult tobacco survey examined smokers' reactions to warnings in 14 countries that are Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
The survey found that:
- Among men in 12 countries and women in seven, more than 90% of smokers noticed a package warning in the previous 30 days.
- More than 50% of smokers in six countries thought about quitting because of the warnings.
In only one country did the warnings cause less than 25% of smokers to think about quitting.
Question: Why was not there more progress against tobacco?
Answer: The tobacco industry and its allies remain rich and powerful, buying influence to undermine tobacco control efforts and spreading myths about tobacco control, such as that it infringes on "smokers' rights" and reduces tobacco's supposed economic benefits. Also, many countries lacked the capacity to fully address the tobacco epidemic. That is why WHO developed the MPOWER package of tobacco control measures: to give countries more of the technical and informational assistance they need to resist the industry, to reduce the demand for tobacco products and to move forward in implementing the WHO Framework Convention.
What we need now is more political will to implement the policies. More money is essential, too. Generally speaking, tobacco control efforts are seriously underfunded.
In any case, in a struggle of this size and complexity, most year-to-year changes are almost bound to be relatively small. Longer-term trends matter more.