Unhealthy diet is the biggest risk factor for disability adjusted life years lost (DALYs) in the EU, principally through diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases, with tobacco and alcohol also contributing significantly to the growing burden of chronic diseases on health services.
Of course, this is far from coincidental. The private sector has a number of strategies and approaches that it employs “to promote products and choices that are detrimental to health”. They include marketing, which enhances the desirability and acceptability of products. Marketing in all its forms is key to unhealthy commodities’ acceptability, and crucially, their appeal.
To read more about these links on the epha.org site: https://epha.org/explaining-the-links-between-commercial-determinants-of-health-and-chronic-diseases/
Towards tobacco-free generations: stopping second-hand smoke and smoking initiation among children
Several Member States in the WHO European Region are moving towards becoming “tobacco-free”, which means having a smoking prevalence of 5% or less. To achieve this, countries must address a number of tobacco-related issues that specifically impact children, and work to protect children from the harmful effects of tobacco.
Second-hand exposure kills over 600 000 non-smokers globally each year, many of whom are children. Causes of such deaths include asthma, respiratory infections and cancer.
To read more about tobacco-free generations from euro.who.int: http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/disease-prevention/tobacco/publications/2017/tobacco-free-generations-protecting-children-from-tobacco-in-the-who-european-region-2017
The World Health Organization (WHO), finds that more countries have implemented tobacco control policies, ranging from graphic pack warnings and advertising bans to no smoking areas. About 4.7 billion people – 63% of the world’s population – are covered by at least one comprehensive tobacco control measure, which has quadrupled since 2007 when only 1 billion people and 15% of the world’s population were covered. Strategies to implement such policies have saved millions of people from early death. The report, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, focuses on monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies. It finds that one third of countries have comprehensive systems to monitor tobacco use. While this is up from one quarter of countries monitoring tobacco use at recommended levels in 2007, governments still need to do more to prioritize or finance this area of work.
For more information about this report on the global tabacco epidemic from who.int website.
A recent survey shows no decrease in the overall smoking rate in the EU since 2014, with more than one in four Europeans still smoking. Amongst people aged 15 to 24 the rate has increased from 25% in 2014 to 29% in 2017.
Significant differences exist between EU countries, with the highest smoking rates in Greece (37%), Bulgaria, France (both 36%) and Croatia (35%). At 7%, Sweden has the lowest smoking rate in the EU. Regular e-cigarette use remains stable at 2%, with 15% having tried such products at some point. With regard to attitudes to tobacco and e-cigarette control measures, the majority of those surveyed (63%) think e-cigarette use should be banned in places where there are smoking bans; and 46% are in favour of plain packaging for cigarettes.
To read the full Eurobarometer on attitudes of Europeans to smoking and e-cigarettes on the ec.europa.eu website
The tobacco industry has become more focused, aggressive and sophisticated in its efforts to block tobacco control measures. However, no single source has yet provided the resources to understand how governments and the public health community can respond to the arguments of tobacco industry players. In light of this, WHO/Europe has developed the Tobacco Control Playbook, an online tool that counters common tobacco myths.
The Playbook is intended to be a living resource, regularly updated and extended with further arguments and on the basis of feedback. It will also be adjusted and expanded to take into account any new developments in tobacco industry approaches. Everyone concerned with tobacco control is invited to contribute to the Playbook’s success by continuing to offer arguments and responses, and by sharing their experiences of using the Playbook. Please send input to email@example.com.
Download the Tobacco Control Playbook from the euro.who.int website
The WHO has produced an action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases in the European Region, focusing on priority action areas and interventions for the next decade in order to reduce premature mortality, reduce the disease burden, improve the quality of life and make healthy life expectancy more equitable.
The priority interventions, at population level are:
- promoting healthy consumption via fiscal and marketing policies on tobacco, alcohol and food
- product reformulation and improvement in terms of salt, fats and sugars
- salt reduction
- promoting active living and mobility
- promoting clean air
Download the action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs on the euro.who.int website
The European Commission’s 3-year initiative ‘Ex-smokers are unstoppable’ has now finished but it proved enormously successful with one in three of the 480,000 registered users stopping smoking after three months.
The centre-piece of the programme was the iCoach, a digital health coach which was free and available both online and as a mobile app for Apple and Android devices in 23 languages.
It guided users through five progressive phases to quit smoking but also incorporated several personal, phase-specific challenges e.g.
- Keep track of how many cigarettes you smoke a day as you may be underestimating your habit
- Postpone the “nicest” cigarette of the day 10 times for 10 minutes and then for 20 minutes
- Leave your cigarettes at home when you need to run a short errand
These challenges enabled users to set themselves small, attainable goals which once achieved, encouraged them to take on further challenges and gain control over their habit.
To read more about ‘Ex-smokers are unstoppable‘ on the ec.europa.eu website
An international tribunal has upheld the sovereign authority of states to protect health through tobacco control.
The World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) has confirmed that tobacco control measures applied by the Government of Uruguay did not violate the terms of an investment agreement between Uruguay and Switzerland, under which the dispute was initiated.
The decision was informed by a submission from the World Health Organization that gave an overview of global tobacco control and set out the public health evidence underlying Uruguay’s tobacco packaging and labelling laws and detailed state practice in implementing similar measures.
The tribunal’s award affirms that Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control can confidently implement the Convention and its Guidelines to protect present and future generations from the devastating consequences of tobacco consumption.
For more information on the right of states to protect health through tobacco control on the who.int website
Tara Duthie, who lives in Stirling, Scotland tried to quit smoking four times in 5 years. Then, in 2015 aged just 49, she had a heart attack – it was a wake-up call she could not ignore. She started using an app to help her stop smoking which not only gave her information about physiological changes but also had little games that she could play to distract herself for the 3 or 4 minutes a craving for a cigarette would last.
Smart phone apps that help with lifestyle change are growing in popularity. However, few public health authorities have mechanisms in place to regulate their quality or have a strategy to guide how they could be used for health promotion.
According to the latest e-health report, “From innovation to implementation – e-health in the WHO European Region“, the health authorities of 22 countries in the Region promote the development and adoption of m-health (mobile health) in the health sector. Around a quarter (11 countries) report that their health authorities regulate mobile devices and software for quality, safety and reliability. In 7 countries the health authorities play no role in the development or adoption of m-health. The report further shows that, when governments sponsor m-health programmes, they are also more likely to provide incentives and guidance on innovation and evaluation, as well as regulation for their use.
For more information about mobile health and smoking on the euro.who.int website
16% of all deaths in adults over 30 in the WHO European Region are due to tobacco, which is one of the highest proportions in the world. This is in contrast to the African or the Eastern Mediterranean Regions, where the proportion is 3% and 7% respectively, and the global average is 12%.
In the Region, 22% of women smoke, which is a higher percentage than in Africa, Asia or the Middle East – all of which come in at around 3–5%. There is also very little difference in the number of smokers between men and women, especially in Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. In Sweden and Norway, there are actually more women smoking than men and more girls than boys are using tobacco in Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland and Slovenia.
To read more about tobacco statistics and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on the euro.who.int website.