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World No Tobacco Day 2007


Tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world. It is well known that half the people who smoke regularly today – about 650 million people – will eventually be killed by tobacco. Equally alarming is the fact that hundreds of thousands of people who have never smoked die each year from diseases caused by breathing second-hand tobacco smoke.

Introduction: rigorous research leaves no doubt

There is no doubt: breathing second-hand tobacco smoke (SHS) is very dangerous to your health. It causes cancer, as well as many serious respiratory and cardiovascular diseases in children and adults, often leading to death. There is no safe level of human exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

These are the indisputable conclusions reached by international and national health authorities, backed up by extensive rigorously reviewed and published research results, over many years. Three recent major publications remind us of these facts:


100% smoke-free is the only answer

Neither ventilation nor filtration, alone or in combination, can reduce exposure levels of tobacco smoke indoors to levels that are considered acceptable, even in terms of odor, much less health effects (see Myths below).

The evidence demands an immediate, decisive response, to protect the health of all people.

Why go smoke-free?


  • Second-hand tobacco smoke kills and causes serious illnesses.
  • 100% smoke-free environments fully protect workers and the public from the serious harmful effects of tobacco smoke.
  • The right to clean air, free from tobacco smoke, is a human right.
  • Most people in the world are non-smokers and have a right not to be exposed to other people's smoke.
  • Surveys show that smoking bans are widely supported by both smokers and non-smokers.
  • Smoke-free environments are good for business, as families with children, most non-smokers and even smokers often prefer to go to smoke-free places.
  • Smoke-free environments provide the many smokers who want to quit with a strong incentive to cut down or stop smoking altogether.
  • Smoke-free environments help prevent people – especially the young – from starting to smoke.
  • Smoke-free environments cost little and they work!


Call for action

Smoke-Free is becoming the norm:   Join the trend to make a smoke-free world!

This year's World No Tobacco Day focuses on 100% SMOKE-FREE ENVIRONMENTS as the only effective measure to protect the public – including women and children, and people at their workplaces – from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

In a growing number of countries, the norm has already changed: BEFORE smoking was allowed practically everywhere; NOW places are 100% smoke-free.


Dismantling tobacco industry myths

The tobacco industry has known for decades that smoke-free policies to protect people from second-hand tobacco smoke represent a serious threat to its business:

"… the most dangerous development to the viability of the tobacco industry that has yet occurred." i

"If smokers can't smoke on the way to work, at work, in stores, banks, restaurants, malls and other public places, they are going to smoke less..." ii

The tobacco industry has repeatedly misled and misinformed the public about the health risks and dangers of second-hand tobacco smoke and on the economic impact of smoking bans. The tobacco industry, directly and through front groups, continues it efforts to slow down the implementation of effective legislation to protect workers and the public from second-hand tobacco smoke.

Here are some of the most often used and widely spread tobacco industry myths about smoking bans, and the arguments – based on scientific evidence – to counter them.


i. A Study of Public Attitudes Toward Cigarette Smoking and the Tobacco Industry in 840000 Jun 1984. Bates: 539001438-539001701.
ii. Merlo describes Philip Morris' motivation for fighting smoking restrictions: Corporate author, Philip Morris. Philip Morris Magazine 890300 - 890400 the Best of America 19890315/P. Bates: 2040236324A-204026324AV.


MYTH: It's just a nuisance

MYTH: Secondhand tobacco smoke1 is just a nuisance

WRONG! It is not a nuisance. It is a health hazard. It causes at least 200,000 deaths a year in workplaces alone (14% of all work-related deaths caused by disease) and 2.8% of all lung cancers2. Many of these people work in the restaurant, entertainment and service sectors, however, the problem can exist in any occupation.

BE PREPARED: To support their claims, the industry and its supporters will point at outdated studies, some of them financed by the tobacco industry itself or affiliated organizations, which conclude that there isn't enough evidence to affirm that tobacco smoke is dangerous. As mentioned above, the three most recent scientific reports on true health impacts of second-hand tobacco smoke are:

  • The 2004 IARC Monograph 83: Tobacco Smoke and Involuntary Smoking
  • The 2005 California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) Environmental Health Hazard Assessment of Environmental Tobacco Smoke
  • The 2006 U.S. Surgeon General's Report on The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke.


    MYTH: What about "courtesy of choice"?

    MYTH: Voluntary agreements offer "courtesy of choice" to accomodate smokers and non-smokers

    WRONG! Voluntary agreements that urge tolerance from non-smokers are not effective in protecting the public from the harms of second-hand tobacco smoke, and represent a barrier to the establishment of real effective protective measures.

    BE PREPARED: The "courtesy of choice", where smokers and non-smokers live in harmony, has been one of the tobacco industry's strongest marketing campaigns. The tobacco industry claims that this approach promotes tolerance and requires the accommodation of smokers and non-smokers in the same spaces. For example, in Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, Uruguay, California and elsewhere, policy makers concluded that voluntary measures did not adequately protect public health and, therefore, have chosen to enact smoke-free legislation.


    MYTH: Ventilation systems work

    MYTH: Ventilation systems protect non-smokers from exposure to SHS.

    WRONG! The industry has promoted the installation and use of expensive ventilation systems and equipment, in an attempt to accommodate smokers and non-smokers in the same indoor enclosed spaces. This is a tactic to avoid the establishment of strict bans. However, ventilation is not only very expensive, it does not work: only 100% smoke-free environments protect the public from exposure.

    BE PREPARED: Tobacco smoke contains both particles and gases. Ventilation systems cannot remove all particulate matter and certainly not gases. Furthermore, many particles are inhaled or deposited on clothing, furniture, walls, ceilings, etc. before they can be ventilated. While increasing the ventilation rate reduces the concentration of indoor pollutants, including tobacco smoke, ventilation rates more than 100 times above common standards would be required just to control odor. Even higher ventilation rates would be required to eliminate toxins, which is the only safe option for health. In order to eliminate the toxins in SHS from the air, so many air exchanges would be required that it would be impractical, uncomfortable and unaffordable.


    MYTH: It can't be done

    MYTH: Smoke-free environments (SFE) will never work.

    WRONG! SFE are widely supported by smokers and non-smokers and, if rightly enforced, they have the most effective way of protecting people from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. They also support smokers who wish to quit, making it easier for them to stop and stay stopped.

    BE PREPARED: Evidence from countries, including Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and Scotland, as well as cities, like San Francisco, El Paso, Boston and New York in the US, show that SFE work, they are supported by the public, and levels of compliance can be close to 100% when good enforcement mechanisms are in place.

    MYTH: Business will suffer

    MYTH: SFE result in lost business to restaurants and pubs.

    WRONG! Independent studies in Canada, Ireland, Italy, Norway and cities, like El Paso and New York, show that, on average, business remains at the same level or even increases after the smoking bans.

    BE PREPARED: Even though not a single independent and rigorous study has proved that smoking bans result in negative results for the economy, the tobacco industry will try to convince business owners and policy makers of the contrary, supporting their allegations with biased studies that lack rigour in their analysis and campaigning through front groups to delay or discourage smoke-free legislation.


    MYTH: It is about rights and freedoms

    MYTH: Smoking bans infringe smoker's rights and freedom of choice

    WRONG! Smoking bans are not about infringing rights. They are about protecting people's health.

    BE PREPARED: It is worth remembering that most people do not smoke, and most who smoke want to quit. Many smokers do not use tobacco by choice, but due to an addiction caused by the nicotine in all tobacco products. The right of a person to breathe air free of poisons takes precedence over the right of smokers to smoke in public places and endanger the health of others. This is not about accommodation or the freedom to use a legal product. It is about where to smoke to avoid endangering the health of others.


    WNTD Celebration

    Smoke-Free is becoming the norm:   Join the trend to make a smoke-free world!

    This year's World No Tobacco Day focuses on 100% SMOKE-FREE ENVIRONMENTS as the only effective measure to protect the public – including women and children, and people at their workplaces – from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

    In a growing number of countries, the norm has already changed: BEFORE smoking was allowed practically everywhere; NOW places are 100% smoke-free.


    World No Tobacco Day 2007 - Message from the Director (English) (Spanish) (Portuguese)


    A video message from Brazil's Minister of Health, Dr. José Gomes Temporão (Portuguese)

    A video message from Uruguay's Minister of Health, Dra. Maria Julia Muñoz (Spanish)


  • Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization
    525 Twenty-third Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037, United States of America
    Tel.: +1 (202) 974-3000 Fax: +1 (202) 974-3663

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