World No Tobacco Day is every year on the 31st of may, It is intended to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption across the globe. The day is further intended to draw global attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and to negative health effects, which currently lead to 5.4 million deaths worldwide annually. The member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) created World No Tobacco Day in 1987. In the past twenty years, the day has been met with both enthusiasm and resistance across the globe from governments, public health organizations, smokers, growers, and the tobacco industry.
World No Tobacco Day is one of many other world health awareness days throughout the year organized by the WHO, including World Mental Health Day, World AIDS Day, and World Blood Donor Day, among others.
- In 1987, the World Health organization of the WHO passed Resolution WHA40.38, calling for April 7, 1988 to be “a world no-smoking day”. April 7, 1988 was the 40th anniversary of the WHO. The objective of the day was to urge tobacco users worldwide to abstain from using tobacco products for 24 hours, an action they hoped would provide assistance for those trying to quit.
- In 1988, Resolution WHA42.19 was passed by the World Health Assembly, calling for the celebration of World No Tobacco Day, every year on May 31. Since then, the WHO has supported World No Tobacco Day every year, linking each year to a different tobacco-related theme.
- In 1998, the WHO established the Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI), an attempt to focus international resources and attention on the global health issue of tobacco. The initiative provides assistance for creating global public health policy, encourages mobilization across societies, and supports the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The WHO FCTC is a global public health treaty adopted in 2003 by countries across the globe as an agreement to implement policies that work towards tobacco cessation.
- In 2008, on the eve of the World No Tobacco Day the WHO called for a worldwide ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. The theme of that year’s day was Tobacco-free youth; therefore, this initiative was especially meant to target advertising efforts aimed at youth. According to the WHO, the tobacco industry must replace older quitting or dying smokers with younger consumers. Because of this, marketing strategies are commonly observed in places that will attract youth such as movies, the Internet, billboards, and magazines. Studies have shown that the more youth are exposed to tobacco advertising, the more likely they are to smoke.
Each year, the WHO selects a theme for the day in order to create a more unified global message for WNTD. This theme then becomes the central component of the WHO’s tobacco-related agenda for the following year. The WHO oversees the creation and distribution of publicity materials related to the theme, including brochures, fliers, posters, websites, and press releases. In 2008 for the theme Tobacco-free youth, Youtube videos were created as a part of the WNTD awareness campaign, and podcasts were first used in 2009.
In many of its WNTD themes and related publicity-materials, the WHO emphasizes the idea of “truth.” Theme titles such as “Tobacco kills, don’t be duped” (2000) and “Tobacco: deadly in any form or disguise” (2006) indicate a WHO belief that individuals may be misled or confused about the true nature of tobacco; the rationale for the 2000 and 2008 WNTD themes identify the marketing strategies and “illusions” created by the tobacco industry as a primary source of this confusion. The WHO’s WNTD materials present an alternate understanding of the “facts” as seen from a global public health perspective. WNTD publicity materials provide an “official” interpretation of the most up-to-date tobacco-related research and statistics and provide a common ground from which to formulate anti-tobacco arguments around the world.
- 2013 Ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
- 2012 Tobacco industry interference
- 2011 The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
- 2010 Gender and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women
- 2009 Tobacco health warnings
- 2008 Tobacco-free youth
- 2007 Smoke free inside
- 2006 Tobacco: deadly in any form or disguise
- 2005 Health professionals against tobacco
- 2004 Tobacco and poverty, a vicious circle
- 2003 Tobacco free film, tobacco free fashion
- 2002 Tobacco free sports
- 2001 Second-hand smoke kills
- 2000 Tobacco kills, don’t be duped
- 1999 Leave the pack behind
- 1998 Growing up without tobacco
- 1997 United for a tobacco free world
- 1996 Sport and art without tobacco: play it tobacco free
- 1995 Tobacco costs more than you think
- 1994 Media and tobacco: get the message across
- 1993 Health services: our windows to a tobacco free world
- 1992 Tobacco free workplaces: safer and healthier
- 1991 Public places and transport: better be tobacco free
- 1990 Childhood and youth without tobacco: growing up without tobacco
- 1989 Women and tobacco: the female smoker: at added risk
- 1988 Tobacco or Health: choose health
- 1988 1st Smoke-free Olympics (1988 Olympic Winter Games – Calgary)
The WHO serves as a central hub for coordinating WNTD events around the world. The WHO website provides a place for groups to register their planned WNTD events. The WHO publishes this information, by country, on its website. The registry helps foster communication and awareness between groups (locally, nationally, and globally) interested in the public health effects of tobacco, and it also serves as a way for interested individuals to quickly see if there is an event in their area.
Since 1988 the WHO has presented one or more Awards to organizations or individuals who have made exceptional contributions to reducing tobacco consumption. World No Tobacco Day Awards are given to individuals from six different world regions (Africa, Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, South-East Asia, and Western Pacific), and Director-General Special Awards and Recognition Certificates are given to individuals from any region.
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