31 May 1987: World No Tobacco Day is launched

WNTD aims to reduce tobacco consumption.
WNTD aims to reduce tobacco consumption. / ANDY WONG
  • The World Health Organisation is calling on citizens and governments of the world to reduce the consumption of tobacco

In 1987, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution calling for 31 May each year to be World No Tobacco Day (WNTD).

The day's primary goal is to raise awareness of the health risks associated with tobacco use and encourage both governments and individuals to reduce smoking.

This year's theme is "Tobacco and Lung Health", aiming to raise awareness of the negative impact tobacco has on smoker's lungs, from cancer to chronic respiratory disease, as well as stressing the fundamental role lungs play in our health and well-being. Previous themes have included 'Get Ready for Plain Packaging', 'Second Hand Smoke Kills' and 'Tobacco Free Youth'.

Around the world, groups are encouraged by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to mark the day by organising events, including letter-writing campaigns to governments, public debates and marches.

Globally, tobacco kills up to half of its consumers, according to the WHO. Of the approximately seven million smoking-related deaths around the world each year, 60,000 occur in Spain. According to the most recent Edades survey carried out by the Spanish Health Ministry, around 34% of the Spanish population smokes. However, arguably as a consequence of anti-tobacco advertising and Spain's harsher legislation on smoking, official statistics show that smoking in Spain has in fact decreased since 2000, by around 16% in men and 10% in women.

According to WHO, taxes are the most cost-effective way to reduce tobacco use, especially among younger and poorer people. A tax hike that puts up the cost of tobacco by 10%, is said to decrease consumption by about 4 to 5%. In spite of this, only 10% of the world's population is taxed considerably on tobacco products - tobacco tax revenue is around 250 times higher than spending on tobacco control, according to WHO data.

Tobacco has the power to deprive families of their loved ones, drive up the cost of valuable healthcare and hinder economic development around the world.

WHO has called for countries globally to "develop, implement and enforce the most effective tobacco control policies aimed at reducing the demand for tobacco", as well as encouraging individuals, families and communities to protect their own health.