In 1988, the World Health Organization (WHO) established World No-Tobacco Day (WNTD) as a way to inform folk of the harms of smoking and encourage them to try quitting – if only for a day. Ever since then, the WHO has designated May 31st as World No-Tobacco Day and has evolved to not only keep the public educated about the harms of smoking, but also discuss what the WHO is doing to address the ongoing tobacco epidemic and how to hold tobacco companies responsible for the effects of smoking.
Each annual WNTD has a specific theme addressing the different harms of smoking, and past themes have included: “Women and Tobacco – The Female Smoker: At Added Risk” (1989), “Entertainment and Tobacco Promotion – Countering the Deception” (2000), “Tobacco Industry Interference” (2012), and “Protect Our Youth” (2021). The wide range of topics emphasizes the vast effects smoking has on our lives, and this year’s theme, “Tobacco: Threat to Our Environment” (2022), draws attention to the ways tobacco harms the world around us, too.
The entire life cycle of tobacco is toxic to the environment, from the destruction of millions of acres of land to grow it, to the 1.69 billion pounds of toxic waste from trillions of cigarette butts once they’re used – along with every step in between, including resource-intensive transport methods. At every point along the way – production consumption, and waste – cigarettes and tobacco are hurting the environment.
Not only is tobacco destroying the environment, but the companies contributing to this destruction are not being held responsible in any capacity. By trying to market themselves as “eco-friendly” through beach clean-ups and new marketing, companies are working to trick public opinion, while maintaining damaging practices – otherwise known as “greenwashing.” This year’s campaign aims to draw attention to these hypocritical tendencies and suggest potential policies to combat them.
In countries across the world, this campaign is calling on governments to create policies and legislation aimed at holding tobacco companies responsible for the environmental harms of tobacco products. Furthermore, the WHO WNTD campaign suggests a banning of all promotional tobacco advertising.
The effects of tobacco reach far and wide, and the way to address these concerns is to encourage folk to quit smoking, and provide them with the tools to do so. One important tool in tobacco cessation is group quit, which are groups led by trained specialists to help folk in the community quit smoking. These groups offer support through the quitting process along with different tools to handle triggers and withdrawals. To find a local group quit – either in the community or online – contact Suwannee River AHEC via our website, phone 866-341-2730, or email [email protected].
Tia is an intern at Suwanee River AHEC. She is currently a senior completing her major in Women’s Studies and minor in Health Disparities in Society minor this semester.
“World No-Tobacco Day” Center for Disease Control, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00001591.htm
“World No-Tobacco Day May 31, 2000” Center for Disease Control, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4920a1.htm#:~:text=This%20year’s%20theme%2C%20%22Entertainment%20and,music%2C%20art%2C%20and%20sports.
“World No Tobacco Day 2012 – Tobacco Industry Interference” World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2012/05/31/default-calendar/world-no-tobacco-day-2012#:~:text=The%20World%20Health%20Organization%20(WHO,on%20Thursday%2C%2031%20May%202012.
“World No Tobacco Day: Protect Our Youth” Center for Disease Control, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/features/world-no-tobacco-day/index.html
“Protect the environment, World No Tobacco Day 2022 will give you one more reason to quit” World Health Organization https://www.who.int/news/item/13-12-2021-protect-the-environment-world-no-tobacco-day-2022-will-give-you-one-more-reason-to-quit
“World No Tobacco Day 2022: Tobacco’s Threat to our environment” World Health Organization Europe https://www.euro.who.int/en/media-centre/events/events/2022/05/world-no-tobacco-day-2022-tobaccos-threat-to-our-environment