Today, one third of the world's adult population uses tobacco. The harmful effects of tobacco use are well documented; yet, many people are still unaware of them, and many who are aware of them are unwilling or unable to quit.
A shocking 4 million people die every year as a result of the effects of tobacco products. This number is expected to increase to 10 million per year in the first half of the next century. If this trend continues, 250 million of the children alive today will have their lives cut short by tobacco-related illnesses.
Tobacco is more than a public health issue; it is an issue that concerns the development of the whole planet. In many developing countries, where the ill-effects are not well-known, smoking puts an intolerable strain on health- care resources. Coupled with the premature deaths of so many people, the impact is staggering.
We can and must do more to reduce the use of tobacco -- both through legislation to curtail access to tobacco products, and through education to prevent young people from starting and to help those addicted to quit.
The good news is that it is never too late to stop -- for it is never too late to discover that there is a better life beyond tobacco. On this World No Tobacco Day, therefore, I join in the call to smokers everywhere to "leave the pack behind; I join in the hope that they will have the strength and will to discover that better life.
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