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World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that secondhand smoke kills 600,000 people every year

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new Report issued on December 9, 2009 by the United Nations’ World Health Organization, estimates that worldwide, secondhand smoking kills about 600,000 people every year. This is approximately the same number of people who are killed by measles or women who die during childbirth each year, according to the Report’s Summary (page 18). Of all deaths attributable to second-hand tobacco smoke, 31% occur among children and 64% occur among women. Also, more carcinogens are identified in secondhand smoke than what are breathed in by the actual smoker.

The report, entitled WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2009: Implementing Smoke-free Environments, reports that in the United States, approximately 50,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. This figure accounts for 11% of all tobacco-related deaths in the United States. Worldwide, the WHO estimates that tobacco use kills at least 5 million people every year.

The WHO urges countries to take stronger measures to combat smoking, including protecting people from smoke, and raising taxes on tobacco products. The report’s Key Recommendations (page 33) include:

  • Legislation that mandates completely smoke-free environments, not voluntary policies, is necessary to protect public health.
  • Legislation should be simple, clear and enforceable, and comprehensive.

Click here to access the WHO’s dedicated webpage to this Report. Click here to read Time magazine’s article.