WHO report shows that tobacco use is still a major preventable cause of most chronic diseases.

Wednesday 05 October 2005

ASH news release:  Embargo: 00:01 Wednesday 5th October 2005


WHO report shows that tobacco use is still a major preventable cause of most chronic diseases

A major report by the World Health Organization [1] has revealed that, worldwide, chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases, account for around 60% of all deaths.  The majority of these are preventable and smoking is the principal preventable risk factor for most of these debilitating diseases.


In the UK,  84% of deaths in 2005 will be from chronic diseases.  Smoking causes around one third of all cancers and respiratory disease and almost a fifth (17%) of heart disease deaths in the UK.   According to the WHO the United Kingdom “has already made important gains in reducing chronic disease death rates”, resulting in 3 million fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease between 1970 and 2000.


The WHO report notes that, in addition to the devastating health consequences, there are enormous economic costs, partly due to the costs of treating people with chronic diseases and also as a result of the loss of productivity from people dying prematurely.  According to the WHO, an additional 2% annual reduction in chronic disease death rates in the UK would result in an economic gain of 2 billion dollars for the country over the next 10 years. [2]


Deborah Arnott, Director of the health campaigning charity ASH, said:


“The WHO report is a timely reminder that tobacco use is still the single, biggest preventable cause of premature death.  The UK can be proud of some initiatives such as the free stop-smoking services that are now available across the nation.  But in other respects we are lagging behind many developed nations. Above all,  the need to guarantee the right to work in a smokefree environment is essential as this measure alone is expected to result in a 4% drop in smoking rates. [3]


“Globally, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control will enable governments to implement robust tobacco control measures such as a ban on tobacco advertising, aids to help people quit smoking, and smokefree laws.  As the WHO report notes, a life of protracted ill-health is not inevitable. The simplest and most assured way of avoiding such ill health is by quitting smoking or preferably never starting.”



Notes and links:

[1]  Preventing chronic diseases: A vital investment.  World Health Organization 2005


Report summary: http://www.who.int/chp/chronic_disease_report/media/information/overview_en.pdf

[2] The WHO uses the US dollar as a common currency to enable comparisons to be made across all countries.

[3] Health Check. On the state of the public health.  Chief Medical Officer’s report 2002.


Contact: Deborah Arnott  020 7739 5902 (w) 079 7693 5987 (m) ISDN available


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