New York, 31 May 2009 - Secretary-General's message on World No Tobacco DayEvery year, some 5.4 million people die from illnesses caused by tobacco consumption – 80 per cent of them in low- and middle-income countries. Up to half of all smokers die from a tobacco-related disease, and science has shown that second-hand smoke harms everyone who is exposed to it. Left unchecked, tobacco-related deaths will rise to more than 8 million by 2030.
Lung cancer, heart disease and other tobacco-related illnesses are part of a broader epidemic of non-communicable diseases, which include strokes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. These diseases have become the world's leading cause of mortality. Sixty per cent of all deaths globally are caused by them, with women being the hardest hit.
That we continue to allow such diseases to be caused by tobacco consumption is a global tragedy. It also comes at vast expense. Economies are harmed by the costs of treating of tobacco-caused diseases and by decreased productivity due to illness and premature death, while families whose members die or become ill due to tobacco use endure an unnecessary financial burden.
On this World No Tobacco Day, I urge governments everywhere to address this needless threat to public health.