world no tobacco dayWorld No Tobacco Day is May 31, 2016. How will you be celebrating?

What would the world be like with no tobacco use? For one day, the World Health Organization (WHO) wants us to try and find out. WHO coordinates the annual World No Tobacco Day with the goal of eliminating tobacco use around the world. This year, the goal of World No Tobacco Day is to encourage countries to legislate the packaging allowances for tobacco companies. Plain packaging is proven to reduce the attractiveness of smoking and emphasize the warning images on them, thereby reducing overall consumption of tobacco. World No Tobacco Day is one small, yearly step toward the elimination of tobacco use everywhere, which would be a massive public health accomplishment.

In 2012, 21 percent of the global population aged 15 and older smoked tobacco. Rates among adolescents in particular are rising in regions such as Africa and Southeast Asia, reflecting increased marketing efforts directed at young people. These areas have few regulations regarding advertising for the tobacco industry. Tobacco is one of the most dangerous legal substances in existence, and literally kills up to half of its users. Six million people die each year as a result of tobacco-related illnesses, and about 600,000 out of those are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Tobacco contains many known carcinogens, and can cause cardiovascular problems, respiratory diseases like asthma and emphysema, and several cancers.

WHO has worked with the governments of several countries to tackle this public health problem, and some promising findings have come about on reducing the rates of tobacco use. The most effective methods that have been found so far fall under three main targets: eliminating tobacco marketing, eliminating the availability of tobacco products and supporting tobacco cessation. This can include banning tobacco advertisements, taxing tobacco products and encouraging physicians to refer their patients to tobacco cessation programs and support groups. Past World No Tobacco Days have focused on banning sponsorships by tobacco companies, stopping illicit trade of tobacco products and raising taxes on tobacco products.

Countries like Australia have already had great success in reducing smoking rates using plain packaging legislation, and about a dozen other countries are considering the option. France, Ireland and the United Kingdom recently passed plain packaging legislation, and will see the effects when the legislation goes into effect this year. But with a proven strategy like this one, countries can be relatively certain their legislation will make a difference. To learn more about World No Tobacco Day, you can view the WHO website. And if you’re looking for tips on quitting smoking, visit your local American Family Care for advice and support.