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MEXICO - World No Tobacco Day

Within the framework of World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization says that 6 million people die a year from tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke

Tobacco will kill nearly 6 million people this year, including 600,000 non-smokers, because governments are not doing enough to persuade people to quit or protect others from second-hand smoke, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

In Mexico, between 13 and 14 million people smoke. Every year, 60,000 Mexicans die due to tobacco-related diseases. On average, young people, particularly women, begin smoking at the age of 12, Rafael Camacho Solís, the founder of the Alliance against Tobacco organization, said.

The WHO considers smoking as an epidemic because between 40 and 50 percent of deaths due to cardiovascular diseases and 90 percent of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking.

In 1987, the World Health Assembly established May 31 as World No Tobacco Day with the purpose of dissuading users from continuing smoking.

Tobacco kills up to half its users and is described by the WHO as “one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced”. It causes lung cancer, which is often fatal, and other chronic respiratory diseases. It is also a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, the world’s number one killers.

The WHO said smoking is one of the biggest contributors to a worldwide epidemic of non-communicable, or chronic, diseases such as heart attack, stroke, cancer and emphysema, which account for 63 percent of all deaths worldwide, nearly 80 percent of which occur in poorer countries.

No control

Jesús Felipe González, the vicepresident of the No Tobacco Mexican Network, said that Mexico’s control over the consumption of tobacco is a pending matter but it has only carried out half of its obligations as one of the countries that signed the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The FCTC came into force in 2005 and obliges the countries that signed it to take steps over time to cut smoking rates, limit exposure to second-hand smoke, and curb tobacco advertising and promotion.

Mexico has been unable to guarantee protection to the non-smoking community and has not implemented concrete actions that will impede minors from buying cigarrettes, González said.

Camacho urged the federal and state governments to abide by the Law to Protect Non-Smokers and proposed considering cigarette sales to minors as corruption of minors. He also endorsed the proposal to raise by 20 percent the Special Tax on Production and Services (IEPS) on cigarette sales.

Establishments wanting to sell cigarrettes should have a license to do so, as with alcohol sales, he continued, because cigarrettes are sold to minors without restriction.

Civil organizations have put together a series of recommendations that will help Mexico fulfill all its obligations to the FCTC. Some of the recommendations are: to encourage Congress to enact regulations to organize, structure and finance national programs on tobacco control, surveillance and prevention; to push for increases in the price of tobacco-related products; and to enlarge warning images on cigarette packs regarding the health consequences of tobacco use. They have also requested the National Addiction Council (Conadic) to redefine the Internal Rules of the Health Secretariat so it includes prevention and control actions among its responsibilities.

Extra factor

Specialist have said that the surge of the so-called “pirate cigarettes” is likely to increase the cost of treatments for tobacco-related diseases because it is unclear what chemicals make up the cigarettes and whether they are even more detrimental to people’s health.

Arnulfo Albores Medina, a researcher of the Research and Advance Studies Center of the National Polytechnic Institute, said smoke from commercial cigarettes contained 4,000 chemicals, of which 160 are toxic and 60 percent are proven to cause cancer.

Smokers and passive smokers are at risk of developing diseases because the smoke is what damages people’s health. Quitting smoking will not reverse the negative effects of tobacco but it will stop diseases from developing, Albores said.

Although the government has increased taxes on cigarettes, the money collected is not sufficient to cover the expense of treating people suffering from tobacco-related diseases.

On July 1, 2009, the General Law on Tobacco Control came into effect in Mexico. It prohibits people from smoking in enclosed public spaces, such as public buildings, restaurants, bars and clubs. Smoking areas must be outdoors or isolated. Minors are not allowed to be in smoking areas and pregnant women are advised against remaining in these areas.

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