World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) is observed around the world every year on May 31. It is intended to urge tobacco users worldwide to abstain from using tobacco products for 24 hours, an action they hoped would provide assistance for those trying to quit. The day is further intended to draw attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco user and to negative health effects, which currently lead to nearly 6 million deaths each year worldwide, including 6,00,000of which are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
The member states of the World Health Organisation (WHO) created World No Tobacco Day in 1987. Since then, the WHO has supported it every year on May 31, linking each year to a different tobacco-related theme.
For this year’s World No Tobacco Day, WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are calling on countries to get ready for plain (standardised) packaging of tobacco products. Plain packaging refers to “measures to restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand manes and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style (plain packaging). This will result in reducing the attractiveness of tobacco products, restricts use of tobacco packaging as a form of advertising, limits misleading packaging and labelling and increases the effectiveness of health warnings.
Tobacco use continues to be a major public health issue across South East Asian region including India as it kills on an average around 150 persons every hour
“Tobacco is leading to death of at least 1.3 million people across the region every year the equivalent of 150 fatalities per hour,” Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South East Asia on World No Tobacco Day. The aesthetic impact of ‘plain packaging’ is significant with studies showing that it has tangible effect on the desirability of tobacco products. This presence must be resisted. Tobacco’s impact goes beyond public health, stymieing the growth prospects of developing economies and burdening taxpayers and health systems whose finite resources could be better used elsewhere,” she added.
As the smoking levels decline in high income countries tobacco companies are increasingly relying on market presence in developing economies, including those in South East Asia Region. Although all 11 member countries, including Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control have developed and implemented tobacco control legislation, children, youth and adults continue to be subjected to pro-tobacco consumption messages in media worldwide.