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In The Americas, One Person Dies Every 34 Seconds From Smoking

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Tobacco use decreases, but electronic cigarettes represent a growing danger in the Americas, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

Woman smoking a cigarette

Photo: Freepik

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: En América muere una persona cada 34 segundos por causa del tabaco

The impact of smoking in America is alarming. Figures from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) indicate that one million people die each year due to tobacco use in the region. This figure is equivalent to one death every 34 seconds. In this regard, it is estimated that 15% of deaths from cardiovascular diseases, 24% from cancer and 45% from chronic respiratory diseases are attributable to tobacco use. Likewise, it is estimated that around 11% of young people consume tobacco on the continent.

Despite these impressive figures, the fight against tobacco use had advanced in recent decades. However, the increase in novel products and misleading information from the tobacco industry, aimed especially at young people, threatens the gains made in the fight against tobacco and its harmful effects.

Electronic cigarettes are the most common form of electronic nicotine delivery systems, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Although they seem like a harmless product and an alternative to cigarettes, their emissions contain nicotine and other toxic substances that are harmful both to users and to those who are exposed to them in the environment. With regard to World No Tobacco Day, PAHO highlights the importance of addressing the growing danger that these products represent for health and emphasizes the need for policies that discourage their consumption, especially among young people.

Which are the countries in America that consume the most tobacco and electronic cigarettes?

The latest report on tobacco in the Region of the Americas (2022) indicates that "the Region of the Americas registered a decrease in the prevalence of current tobacco use, which went from 28% in 2000 to 16.3% in the 2020". This percentage represents the second-lowest prevalence of tobacco use in the world today. However, it also points out that the tobacco industry has redoubled its attempts to interfere with policies that aim to reduce tobacco use. In fact, the report ensures that "tobacco remains the only legal consumer product that kills up to half of those who consume it, following the instructions of the manufacturers."

In 2020, the highest prevalence of current tobacco use in adults was in Chile (29.2%) and the lowest in Panama (5.0%). After Chile were Argentina (24.5%), the United States (23%), Uruguay (21.5%), Cuba (17.9%), Mexico (13.1%), Canada (13%), Brazil (12.8%), Bolivia (12.7%) and Guyana (12.1%). In all countries, there is a tendency for men to smoke more than women. Regarding electronic cigarettes, the United States has the highest prevalence in the region, in the young population, with 19.6% and Brazil has the lowest with 0.2%.

Grow food, not tobacco

Tobacco use has a very harmful impact on health. Smoking is considered a cross-sectional risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death in the world. In other words, it is one of the biggest concerns for health systems. Likewise, it is a major risk factor for the "four most preventable and prevalent noncommunicable diseases: cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases," according to PAHO.

We recommend you read: World No Tobacco Day: Not Only Does It Damage Your Lungs, But the World

However, tobacco is not only harmful to human health, but also to that of the planet. In this regard, given the food crisis in the world, the focus of World No Tobacco Day in 2023 is "Cultivate food, not tobacco". This is a campaign that aims to call the attention of governments so that they do not subsidize tobacco crops and invest those resources in helping farmers plant sustainable food crops.

In the world, there are around 349 million people who face acute food insecurity, distributed in 79 countries. This is a figure that is causing increasing concern and faced with it, the World No Tobacco Day campaign points out that "many of these people reside in low- and middle-income countries, and more than 30 of those countries are on the continent Another characteristic shared by many of these countries is that they use large tracts of fertile land to grow tobacco, rather than to produce healthy food." For this reason, the fight against smoking has more and more organizations united, which seek to regulate the world market more and put brakes on the million-dollar companies that control the business.