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Smoking-Related Illnesses Could Kill Up To 1B People This Century, U.N. Official Says

As many as one billion people could die of smoking-related illnesses this century if efforts to curb the practice are not implemented, a senior U.N. health official warned on Friday, the U.N. News Centre reports.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Moscow global ministerial conference on non-communicable diseases, Douglas Bettcher, director of the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative, said an estimated six million people die annually of diseases related to smoking or second-hand smoke, mainly in low- to middle-income countries, and that “a cataclysmic future” lies ahead for these nations unless governments implement policies to discourage smoking, according to the news service.

Bettcher said the most successful programs to reduce smoking rates include “raising the prices of products through taxes; enforcing complete bans on smoking in public places; introducing large pictorial warnings on products; and setting up national ‘quit lines’ to advise and support people trying to stop smoking,” the U.N. News Centre writes. “There is no need for [these deaths],” he said, adding, “We have tools to help everyone quit” (4/29).

China Smoking Ban Goes Into Effect

China’s ban on smoking in indoor public spaces went into effect on Sunday, although questions remain over who will enforce the ban and what penalties can be levied on individuals who ignore it, Xinhuanet reports (Wang, 5/2).

The ban, which experts hope will raise awareness of the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke among the population, prevents the country’s 300 million smokers from lighting up in hotels, restaurants, theaters and public transportation depots, but not offices or factories, according to VOA News (Ho, 5/1).

The Telegraph reports the ban comes in response to pressure from the WHO, “which castigated China for failing to comply with a global anti-tobacco treaty.” Though the WHO lauded China for the “groundbreaking” policy, the newspaper continues, “barely any observers believe the ban will be enforced, and there are no penalties for breaking the rules. … Even the Ministry of Health has admitted it was unable to ban smoking in its offices” (Moore, 5/1).