In observation of World No Tobacco Day, smokers everywhere will be abstaining from tobacco for 24 hours. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners have called on countries to observe the day by raising taxes on tobacco. Other experts believe that encouraging the use of e-cigarettes should be a central goal of the day. However you plan to observe the day, make sure it’s tobacco-free.

World No Tobacco Day hopes to draw attention to the global use of tobacco and the negative health effects, The Dolphin reported. Tobacco kills up to half of all its users, and each year more than 600,000 non-smokers die as a result of secondhand smoke. The day’s ultimate goal is to contribute to “protecting present and future generations not only from the devastating health consequences due to tobacco, but also from the social, environmental and economic scourges of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke,” according to the WHO. In Dubai, nearly 500 shops have agreed to halt the sale of tobacco products in observation of the day, Gulf Today reported.  

Raising Tobacco Taxes

It is estimated that increasing tobacco prices by 10 percent decreases tobacco consumption by about four percent in high-income countries and by up to eight percent in most low- and middle-income countries, based on information compiled by the WHO. The organization also believes this to be the most cost-effective tobacco control measure.

In the United States, a proposal has been set for a $1-a-pack price hike that could start as early as this fall. The money raised from the price hike would create a $1 billion cancer research and prevention fund, The Seattle Times reported. New York State currently has the highest tobacco tax in the U.S. Buying a pack of cigarettes there could cost upward of $14. This makes sense as to why only 18 percent of New Yorkers smoke, according to information released by the Business Insider. In West Virginia, on the other hand, where a pack of cigarettes is a little over $5, 28 percent of the population admits to lighting up. A similar tobacco tax rise proposal was set forward for the state of California in 2012, but it was never voted in. Some believe this was largely due to the $47 million campaign that Big Tobacco led against the proposal.

E-Cigarettes

Many argue that e-cigarettes should be regarded as a health innovation. The WHO is currently working on recommendations for e-cigarette regulation to be later presented in October, AFP reported. A group of doctors and policy experts have written a letter to the U.N.’s health agency, urging them to embrace e-cigs as a life-saving device and not group them together with other harmful tobacco products. Currently e-cigs are banned in some countries, such as Brazil and Singapore, and are facing increasing restrictions elsewhere. "It would be unethical and harmful to inhibit the option to switch to tobacco harm-reduction products" like e-cigarettes, said the letter, a copy of which was given to AFP.

Those who oppose e-cigarettes believe that their promotion could cause non-smokers to get hooked on nicotine. Although it is true that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, their effects on health are still unclear. Tobacco, on the other hand, is known to kill six million people every year. “People smoke for the nicotine and die of the tar," explained Gerry Stimson, addiction specialist, co-signer of the letter, and an emeritus professor at University College London.