Monday, December 7, 2009

World Health Orgainzation Announcement

Today, December 7, 2009 the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it will be expanding its tobacco control efforts on the continent of Africa. This is an important step forward for tobacco control for a few reasons. First, according to the WHO projections, "Unchecked [tobacco use], it will kill more than 8 million people per year by 2030, with more than 80 percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries. Although tobacco use is less prevalent in Africa than in other regions of the world, that will change unless we act," said Ala Alwan. 

African Nations appear to be at a critical junction between future increased tobacco use and the health problems associated with it and comprehensive health policies preventing the devastating toll of tobacco. Ala Alwan also said, "Tobacco breeds poverty, killing people in their most productive years. It consumes family and health-care budgets -- money spent on tobacco products is money not spent on such essentials as education, food, and medicine." 

While he might discussing the issues related to smoking on the continent, he might as well be talking about what we have seen in the United States and Wisconsin as well. Wisconsin has certainly seen its ups and downs in tobacco control, we are also at a critical juncture with our work in tobacco. Will we continue to allow Big Tobacco to interfere with public health policy? Will we work to end the candy flavored tobacco products? What other steps must we take to reduce our annual burden of tobacco? 

It is important to note that while some African countries have  implemented smoke-free air policies, many countries have not. With tobacco use on the rise and high rates of exposure to secondhand smoke, the WHO initiative is important for the health of all people on the continent. WHO is planning on opening a regional office and is receiving funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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