|World No Tobacco Day|
Ash trays with fresh flowers are a common symbol of World No Tobacco Day.
|Observed by||All UN member states|
|Next time||31 May 2020|
World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) is observed around the world every year on 31 May. It is intended to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption around the globe. The day is further intended to draw attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and to negative health effects, which currently lead to more than 7 million deaths each year worldwide, including 890,000 of which are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. The member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) created World No Tobacco Day in 1987. In the past twenty one years, the day has been met with both enthusiasm and resistance around the globe from governments, public health organizations, smokers, growers, and the tobacco industry.
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WNTD is one of eight official global public health campaigns marked by the WHO, along with World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Immunization Week, World Tuberculosis Day, World Malaria Day, World Hepatitis Day, and World AIDS Day.
Each year, the WHO selects a theme for the day in order to create a more unified global message for WNTD. This theme then becomes the central component of the WHO's tobacco-related agenda for the following year. The WHO oversees the creation and distribution of publicity materials related to the theme, including brochures, fliers, posters, websites, and press releases. Videos were created as a part of the 2008 WNTD awareness campaign for the theme ″Tobacco-free youth″ and published on YouTube, and podcasts were first used in 2009.
In many of its WNTD themes and related publicity-materials, the WHO emphasizes the idea of "truth." Theme titles such as "Tobacco kills, don't be duped" (2000) and "Tobacco: deadly in any form or disguise” (2006) indicate a WHO belief that individuals may be misled or confused about the true nature of tobacco; the rationale for the 2000 and 2008 WNTD themes identify the marketing strategies and “illusions” created by the tobacco industry as a primary source of this confusion. The WHO's WNTD materials present an alternate understanding of the “facts” as seen from a global public health perspective. WNTD publicity materials provide an "official" interpretation of the most up-to-date tobacco-related research and statistics and provide a common ground from which to formulate anti-tobacco arguments around the world. The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2017 was "Tobacco – a threat to development." In 2018, it is "Tobacco breaks hearts". In 2019 The theme is Make Every Day World No Tobacco Day.
The WHO serves as a central hub for fostering communication and coordinating WNTD events around the world. The WHO website provides a place for groups to share news of their activities, and the organization publishes this information online by country.
Since 1988 the WHO has presented one or more awards to organizations or individuals who have made exceptional contributions to reducing tobacco consumption. World No Tobacco Day Awards are given to individuals from six different world regions (Africa, Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, South-East Asia, and Western Pacific), and Director-General Special Awards and Recognition Certificates are given to individuals from any region.
Groups around the world – from local clubs to city councils to national governments – are encouraged by the WHO to organize events each year to help communities celebrate World No Tobacco Day in their own way at the local level. Past events have included letter writing campaigns to government officials and local newspapers, marches, public debates, local and national publicity campaigns, anti-tobacco activist meetings, educational programming, and public art.
In addition, many governments use WNTD as the start date for implementing new smoking bans and tobacco control efforts. For example, on 31 May 2008, a section of the Smoke Free Ontario Act came into effect banning tobacco "power walls" and displays at stores in this Canadian province, and all hospitals and government offices in Australia became smoke-free on 31 May 2010.
The day has also been used as a springboard for discussing the current and future state of a country as it relates to tobacco—for example in India which, with 275 million tobacco users, has one of the highest levels of tobacco consumption in the world.
For some, WNTD is seen as a challenge to individual freedom of choice or even a culturally acceptable form of discrimination. From ignoring WNTD, to participating in protests or acts of defiance, to bookending the day with extra rounds of pro-tobacco advertisements and events, smokers, tobacco growers, and the tobacco industry have found ways to make their opinions of the day heard.
There has been no sustained or widespread effort to organize counter-WNTD events on the part of smokers. However, some small groups, particularly in the United States, have created local pro-smoking events. For example, the Oregon Commentator, an independent conservative journal of opinion published at the University of Oregon, hosted a "Great American Smoke-in" on campus as a counter to the locally more widespread Great American Smokeout: "In response to the ever-increasing vilification of smokers on campus, the Oregon Commentator presents the Great American Smoke-in as an opportunity for students to join together and enjoy the pleasures of fine tobacco products." Similarly, "Americans for Freedom of Choice", a group in Honolulu, Hawaii, organized "World Defiance Day" in response to WNTD and Hawaii's statewide ban on smoking in restaurants.
Historically, in America the tobacco industry has funded state initiatives that provide resources to help smokers quit smoking as per the Master Settlement Agreement regulated by the U.S. government. For example, Phillip Morris USA operates a website that acts as a guide for those who choose to quit smoking.
World No Tobacco Days have not induced a positive vocal response from the tobacco industry. For example, a memo made publicly available through the Tobacco Archives website was sent out to executives of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in preparation for the third annual World No Tobacco Day, which had the theme of "Childhood and Youth Without Tobacco". The memo includes a warning about the upcoming day, a document that explains the arguments they anticipate the WHO making, and an explanation of how the company should respond to these claims. For example, in response to the anticipated argument that their advertisements target children, the company's response includes arguments that claim their advertisements are targeted towards adults by using adult models, and that advertisements lack the power to influence what people will actually purchase. In Uganda, since the World No Tobacco Day is the one day that the media is obligated to publicize tobacco control issues, the British American Tobacco company uses the eve of the day to administer counter-publicity. In 2001, their strategy included events such as a visit with the President of the International Tobacco Growers Association.
Unlike the tobacco industry, some major pharmaceutical companies do publicly support WNTD. For example, Pfizer was a large sponsor for many WNTD events in the United Arab Emirates in 2008. At the time, Pfizer was preparing to release its drug Chantix (Varenicline) into the Middle Eastern market. The drug was "designed to activate the nicotinic receptor to reduce both the severity of the smoker's craving and the withdrawal symptoms from nicotine."
Many tobacco growers feel that anti-tobacco efforts by organizations such as the WHO jeopardize their rights. For example, the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) argues that poor farmers in Africa may suffer the consequences if WHO anti-tobacco movements succeed. They also argue that these efforts may gang up on manufacturers of tobacco and be an attack on the industry, therefore hurting the growers.
As some traditions and ceremonies of a number of cultures and ethnicities of Native Americans in the United States and First Nations in North America have been based on tobacco since pre-Columbian times, some potential for unintended abrogation of such traditions may exist from authorities seeking to eliminate tobacco from worldwide use – traditions of non-combustive use of tobacco for some forms of indigenous American ceremonial purposes have begun to be used for cessation of cigarette use among indigenous tribal members, while members of the Oglala Lakota have had their struggles to retain important historic tribal artifacts used for tobacco's traditional role in their ethnicity's traditions, to prevent their illegal sale. It is possible that a 2015 survey from Health Canada concerning future tobacco control legislation in Canada, having a section requesting advice from indigenous peoples within Canada, showed the potential of concern over such issues.
Tobacco has become a much-maligned plant in modern society...But tobacco itself is not the problem, according to Gina Boudreau. In fact, she considers it sacred. And she is not alone. Many Native American communities, including hers, use the substance in traditional rituals and pass down stories about how and why the creator gave it to them. Yet customs related to growing and respecting tobacco have eroded over time, leaving communities exposed mostly to commercial versions of the plant—and furthering smoking addiction.
An upcoming auction in Texas intends to sell over 100 Native American items – including ceremonial pipes that are deeply sacred to the Oglala Sioux and guns that were used in the Massacre at Wounded Knee – over the objections of tribes who say it's disrespectful. "These are our items, these are our laws," Trina Lone Hill, the historic preservation officer for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, told ThinkProgress...Selling ceremonial pipes is "taboo," Lone Hill said. "The pipe is the most sacred item in our whole culture."
"Who" – We are looking for comments from: the general public – Indigenous peoples, including: leaders, individuals, communities. organizations.