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17 Sep 2018 - Beauty (and taste!) are on the inside

  • Published in Other

Why loving ugly fruit and vegetables is good for the environment, the economy and a #ZeroHunger world

It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But when it comes to fruit and vegetables, one third of them never even make it to our grocery store shelves because they are rejected on their way from the farm to the store. While supermarkets have a part to play in this, we must also examine our own consciences. Would we choose the oval-shaped, matte-colored apple or the perfectly rounded shiny one? One of these would definitely make a nicer Instagram photo than the other, but in the end, both would taste equally as good and would satisfy your hunger.

821 million people go hungry every day, while the world as a whole wastes or loses 1/3 of what is produced. In the case of fruits and vegetables, almost half (45%) is wasted.  In our world of increasing extreme weather events and changes in climate, saving ugly fruit isn’t only an issue of ethics, it is a question of resources. Valuable natural resources go into producing the food we throw away. It takes 13 litres of water to grow 1 tomato and 50 litres of water to produce one orange. It also takes seeds, soil, labour of farmers and even the fuel that goes into transporting the food. All of these resources are lost when the fruit (pun intended) of these labours is lost.

Waste can happen in many ways and at many different parts of the value chain. Let’s hear the stories of a carrot, banana and potato.

Would you eat a carrot like the one above? What about if it helped combat climate change? 25-30% of carrots don’t make it to grocery stores because of aesthetic or physical irregularities. ©Ralu Cohn/shutterstock.comWould you eat a carrot like the one above? What about if it helped combat climate change? 25-30% of carrots don’t make it to grocery stores because of aesthetic or physical irregularities. ©Ralu Cohn/shutterstock.com

The carrot’s story

A carrot often faces many obstacles before even getting to a supermarket. It must pass the rigid requirements that supermarkets have for their fruits and vegetables. Sometimes, carrots must go through photographic sensor machines that analyze them for aesthetic defects. If they are slightly bent, not bright orange, have a blemish or are broken, they are moved into the pile intended for livestock feed even though they are still fit for human consumption. In total about 25-30% of carrots, don’t make it to the grocery store because of physical or aesthetic defects. At farmers markets or farm shops, sales of carrots can bypass some of the strict aesthetic standards that supermarkets have, but would you buy an untraditional-looking carrot?

Which one would you choose? By choosing fruits and vegetables that are imperfect or riper, we, as consumers, can help save all the resources that went into making the food. ©saiko3p/shutterstock.com Which one would you choose? By choosing fruits and vegetables that are imperfect or riper, we, as consumers, can help save all the resources that went into making the food. ©saiko3p/shutterstock.com

The banana’s story

Bananas are a particularly fragile fruit. Even if they make it to the grocery stores or markets, the way they are stacked or the way they have been packaged can damage these softies. Handling bananas roughly can negatively impact their appearance and can cause the fruit to spoil more quickly. Consumers are then not normally keen to buy produce that is over-ripe, soft, discolored or damaged. So, here’s a tip for you: If you intend to eat the fruit the same day, buy the ones that are already ripe. If no one chooses them, they will end up in the garbage instead of someone’s stomach.

 “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” - Confucius

If we learn to love ugly fruits and vegetables, we could save some of the food that is wasted simply because of the way it looks. ©Ekaterina Matronitckaia/shutterstock.comIf we learn to love ugly fruits and vegetables, we could save some of the food that is wasted simply because of the way it looks. ©Ekaterina Matronitckaia/shutterstock.com

The potato’s story

Some food like, potatoes, are lost or wasted when they are processed into other types of food. For example, potatoes destined to be French fries, can be wasted in the stage where they are cut into strips. These strips break easily during the processing and packaging stages. The broken pieces are then often thrown out because it is usually cheaper to dispose of them than to reuse them. Other potatoes that get damaged during the loading or transport phase get excluded before even making it to the packaging factory. Developing markets for “sub-standard” produce and products, like broken potatoes, which are still safe for consumption, nutritious and taste good, would be one way to reduce food waste or losses caused by errors in processing, packaging or transporting. 

Most of this waste is preventable. Choosing ugly produce, storing fruits and vegetables properly and eating what you already have in the refrigerator before what is newly purchased are just some things that each of us can do in our daily lives to create a #ZeroHunger world and combat climate change. Make room in your heart for ugly fruits so that they fill stomachs and not landfills.


12 Sep 2018 - UN Secretary-General's remarks on Climate Change

Dear friends of planet Earth,

Thank you for coming to the UN Headquarters today.

I have asked you here to sound the alarm.

Climate change is the defining issue of our time – and we are at a defining moment.

We face a direct existential threat.

Climate change is moving faster than we are – and its speed has provoked a sonic boom SOS across our world.

If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.

That is why, today, I am appealing for leadership – from politicians, from business and scientists, and from the public everywhere.

We have the tools to make our actions effective.

What we still lack – even after the Paris Agreement – is the leadership and the ambition to do what is needed.

Dear friends,

Let there be no doubt about the urgency of the crisis.

We are experiencing record-breaking temperatures around the world.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the past two decades included 18 of the warmest years since 1850, when records began.

This year is shaping up to be the fourth hottest. 

Extreme heatwaves, wildfires, storms and floods are leaving a trail of death and devastation. 

Last month the state of Kerala in India suffered its worst monsoon flooding in recent history, killing 400 people and driving 1 million more from their homes. 

We know that Hurricane Maria killed almost 3,000 people in Puerto Rico last year, making it one of the deadliest extreme weather disasters in U.S. history. 

Many of those people died in the months after the storm because they lacked access to electricity, clean water and proper healthcare due to the hurricane. 

What makes all of this even more disturbing is that we were warned. 

Scientists have been telling us for decades. Over and over again.

Far too many leaders have refused to listen.

Far too few have acted with the vision the science demands.

We see the results. 
In some situations, they are approaching scientists’ worst-case scenarios. 

Arctic sea ice is disappearing faster than we imagined possible. 

This year, for the first time, thick permanent sea ice north of Greenland began to break up.

This dramatic warming in the Arctic is affecting weather patterns across the northern hemisphere.

Wildfires are lasting longer and spreading further. 

Some of these blazes are so big that they send soot and ash around the world, blackening glaciers and ice caps and making them melt even faster.

Oceans are becoming more acidic, threatening the foundation of the food chains that sustain life.

Corals are dying in vast amounts, further depleting vital fisheries.

And, on land, the high level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is making rice crops less nutritious, threatening well-being and food security for billions of people. 
As climate change intensifies, we will find it harder to feed ourselves. 

Extinction rates will spike as vital habitats decline. 

More and more people will be forced to migrate from their homes as the land they depend on becomes less able to support them. 

This is already leading to many local conflicts over dwindling resources. 

This past May, the World Meteorological Organization reported that the planet marked another grim milestone: the highest monthly average for carbon dioxide levels ever recorded.

Four hundred parts per million has long been seen as a critical threshold.

But we have now surpassed 411 parts per millions and the concentrations continue to rise.

This is the highest concentration in 3 million years.  

Dear friends,

We know what is happening to our planet.

We know what we need to do.

And we even know how to do it.

But sadly, the ambition of our action is nowhere near where it needs to be. 

When world leaders signed the Paris Agreement on climate change three years ago, they pledged to stop temperatures rising by less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to work to keep the increase as close as possible to 1.5 degrees.

These targets were really the bare minimum to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. 

But scientists tell us that we are far off track.

According to a UN study, the commitments made so far by Parties to the Paris Agreement represent just one-third of what is needed.

The mountain in front of us is very high. 

But it is not insurmountable.

We know how to scale it.

Put simply, we need to put the brake on deadly greenhouse gas emissions and drive climate action.

We need to rapidly shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels. 

We need to replace them with clean energy from water, wind and sun. 

We must halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and change the way we farm. 

We need to embrace the circular economy and resource efficiency.

Our cities and transport sectors will need to be overhauled. 

How we heat, cool and light our buildings will need to be rethought so we waste less energy.

And this is exactly where this conversation can become exciting.

Because, so much of the conversation on climate change focuses on the doom and gloom. 

Of course, warnings are necessary. But fear will not get the job done. 

No, what captures my imagination is the vast opportunity afforded by climate action.

Dear friends,

Enormous benefits await humankind if we can rise to the climate challenge.

A great many of these benefits are economic. 

I have heard the argument – usually from vested interests -- that tackling climate change is expensive and could harm economic growth. 

This is hogwash.

In fact, the opposite is true. 

We are experiencing huge economic losses due to climate change.

Over the past decade, extreme weather and the health impact of burning fossil fuels have cost the American economy at least 240 billion dollars a year. 

This cost will explode by 50 per cent in the coming decade alone.

By 2030, the loss of productivity caused by a hotter world could cost the global economy 2 trillion dollars. 

More and more studies also show the enormous benefits of climate action. 

Last week I was at the launch of the New [Climate] Economy report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Change.

It shows that that climate action and socio-economic progress are mutually supportive, with gains of 26 trillion dollars predicted by 2030 compared with business as usual. If we pursue the right path.

For example, for every dollar spent restoring degraded forests, as much as $30 dollars can be recouped in economic benefits and poverty reduction. 

Restoring degraded lands means better lives and income for farmers and pastoralists and less pressure to migrate to cities.

Climate-resilient water supply and sanitation could save the lives of more than 360,000 infants every year.

And clean air has vast benefits for public health.

The International Labour Organization reports that common sense green economy policies could create 24 million new jobs globally by 2030.

In China and the United States, new renewable energy jobs now outstrip those created in the oil and gas industries.

And, in Bangladesh the installation of more than four million solar home systems has created more than 115,000 jobs and saved rural households over 400 million dollars in polluting fuels.

So, not only would a shift to renewable energy save money, it would also create new jobs, waste less water, boost food production and clean the polluted air that is killing us.

There is nothing to lose from acting; there is everything to gain.

Now, there are still many who think that the challenge is too great. 

But I deeply disagree.

Humankind has confronted and overcome immense challenges before; challenges that have required us to work together and to put aside division and difference to fight a common threat.
That is how the United Nations came into action.

It is how we have to helped to end wars, to stop diseases, to reduce global poverty and to heal the ozone hole.

Now we stand at an existential crossroad. 

If we are to take the right path – the only sensible path -- we will have to muster the full force of human ingenuity.

But that ingenuity exists and is already providing solutions.

And so dear friends,

Another central message - technology is on our side in the battle to address climate change.

The rise of renewable energy has been tremendous. 

Today, it is competitive [with] – or even cheaper – than coal and oil, especially if one factors in the cost of pollution.

Last year, China invested 126 billion dollars in renewable energy, an increase of 30 per cent on the previous year. 

Sweden is set to hit its 2030 target for renewable energy this year – 12 years early. 

By 2030, wind and solar energy could power more than a third of Europe. 

Morocco is building a solar farm the size of Paris that will power more than one million homes by 2020 with clean, affordable energy. 

Scotland has opened the world’s first floating wind farm.

There are many other signs of hope. 

Countries rich in fossil fuels, like the Gulf States and Norway, are exploring ways to diversify their economies. 

Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in renewables to move from an oil economy to an energy economy.

Norway’s 1 trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund – the largest in the world – has moved away from investments in coal and has dropped a number of palm and pulp-paper companies because of the forests they destroy.
There are also promising signs that businesses are waking up to the benefits of climate action. 

More than 130 of the world’s largest and most influential businesses plan to power their operations with 100 per cent renewable energy. 

Eighteen multinationals will shift to electric vehicle fleets. 

And more than 400 firms will develop targets based on the latest science in order to manage their emissions. 

One of the world’s biggest insurers – Allianz – will stop insuring coal-fired power plants. 

Investments are shifting too. 

More than 250 investors representing 28 trillion dollars in assets have signed on to the Climate Action 100+ initiative. 

They have committed to engage with the world’s largest corporate greenhouse [gas] emitters to improve their climate performance and ensure transparent disclosure of emissions.  

Many such examples are going to be showcased this week at the important Global Climate Action Summit being convened by Governor Brown in California.

All the pioneers I mentioned have seen the future. 

They are betting on green because they understand this is the path to prosperity and peace on a healthy planet.

The alternative is a dark and dangerous future.

These are all important strides. 

But they are not enough. 

The transition to a cleaner, greener future needs to speed up. 

We stand at a truly “use it or lose it” moment.

Over the next decade or so, the world will invest some 90 trillion dollars in infrastructure.

And so we must ensure that that infrastructure is sustainable or we will lock in a high-polluting dangerous future.

And for that to happen, the leaders of the world need to step up.

The private sector, of course, is poised to move, and many are doing so.

But a lack of decisive government action is causing uncertainty in the markets and concern about the future of the Paris Agreement.

We can’t let this happen.

Existing technologies are waiting to come online – cleaner fuels, alternative building materials, better batteries and advances in farming and land use. 

These and other innovations can have a major role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, so we can hit the Paris targets and inject the great ambition that is so urgently needed. 

Governments must also end harmful subsidies for fossil fuels, institute carbon pricing that reflects the true cost of polluting greenhouse [gas] emissions and incentivizes the clean energy transition.

Dear friends,

I have spoken of the emergency we face, the benefits of action and the feasibility of a climate-friendly transformation.

There is another reason to act -- moral duty. 

The world’s richest nations are the most responsible for the climate crisis, yet the effects are being felt first and worst by the poorest nations and the most vulnerable peoples and communities. 

We already see this injustice in the incessant and increasing cycle of extreme droughts and ever more powerful storms. 

Women and girls, in particular, will pay the price – not only because their lives will become harder but because, in times of disaster, women and girls always suffer disproportionally.

Richer nations must therefore not only cut their emissions but do more to ensure that the most vulnerable can develop the necessary resilience to survive the damage these emissions are causing. 

It is important to note that, because carbon dioxide is long-lasting in the atmosphere, the climate changes we are already seeing will persist for decades to come.

It is necessary for all nations to adapt, and for the richest ones to assist the most vulnerable.

Dear friends,

This is the message I would like to make clear in addressing the world leaders this month’s in the General Assembly in New York.

I will tell them that climate change is the great challenge of our time. 

That, thanks to science, we know its size and nature. 

That we have the ingenuity, and the resources and tools to face it. 

And that leaders must lead.

We have the moral and economic incentives to act.

What is still missing – still, even after Paris – is the leadership, and the sense of urgency and true commitment to [a] decisive multilateral response.

Negotiations towards implementation guidelines for operationalizing the Paris Agreement ended yesterday in Bangkok with some progress -- but far from enough.

The next key moment is in Poland in December.

I call on leaders to use every opportunity between now and then -- the G7, the G20 gatherings as well as meetings of the General Assembly, World Bank and International Monetary Fund -- to resolve the sticking points. 

We cannot allow Katowice to remind us of Copenhagen.

The time has come for our leaders to show they care about the people whose fate they hold in their hands. 

We need them to show they care about the future – and even the present.

That is why I am so pleased to have such a strong representation of youth in the audience today.

It is imperative that civil society -- youth, women’s groups, the private sector, communities of faith, scientists and grassroots movements around the world -- call their leaders to account. As I was told myself by my Youth Envoy.

I call -- in particular -- on women’s leadership.  

When women are empowered to lead, they are the drivers of solutions. 

Nothing less than our future and the fate of humankind depends on how we rise to the climate challenge. 

It affects every aspect of the work of the United Nations.

Keeping our planet’s warming to well below 2 degrees is essential for global prosperity, people’s well-being and the security of nations. 

That is why, next September, I will convene a Climate Summit to bring climate action to the top of the international agenda. 

Today, I am announcing the appointment of Luis Alfonso de Alba, a well-respected leader in the climate community, as my Special Envoy to lead those preparations.

His efforts will complement those of my Special Envoy for Climate Action, Michael Bloomberg, and my Special Advisor Bob Orr, who will help to mobilize private finance and catalyze bottom-up action.

The Summit next year will come exactly one year before countries will have to enhance their national climate pledges under the Paris Agreement.

Only a significantly higher level of ambition will do. 

To that end, the Summit will focus on areas that go to the heart of the problem – the sectors that create the most emissions and the areas where building resilience will make the biggest difference. 

The Summit will provide an opportunity for leaders and partners to demonstrate real climate action and showcase their ambition.

We will bring together players from the real economy and real politics, including representatives of trillions of dollars of assets, both public and private.

I want to hear about how we are going to stop the increase in emissions by 2020, and dramatically reduce emissions to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century.

We need cities and states to shift from coal to solar and wind -- from brown to green energy.  

Our great host city, New York, is taking important steps in this direction -- and working with other municipalities to spur change.

We need increased investments and innovation in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies across buildings, transport, and industry. 

And we need the oil and gas industry to make their business plans compatible with the Paris agreement and the Paris targets.

I want to see a strong expansion in carbon pricing. 

I want us to get the global food system right by ensuring that we grow our food without chopping down large tracts of forest. 

We need sustainable food supply chains that reduce loss and waste. 

And we must halt deforestation and restore degraded lands. 

I want to rapidly speed up the trend towards green financing by banks and insurers, and encourage innovation in financial and debt instruments to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable nations such as small island states and bolster their defences against climate change. 

And I want to see governments fulfilling their pledge to mobilize 100 billion dollars a year for climate action in support of the developing world.

We need to see the Green Climate Fund become fully operational and fully resourced.

But for all this, we need governments, industry and civil society reading from the same page – with governments front and centre driving the movement for climate action.

I am calling on all leaders to come to next year’s Climate Summit prepared to report not only on what they are doing, but what more they intend to do when they convene in 2020 for the UN climate conference and where commitments will be renewed and surely ambitiously increased.

And it is why I am calling on civil society, and young people in particular, to campaign for climate action.

Let us use the next year for transformational decisions in boardrooms, executive suites and parliaments across the world.  

Let us raise our sights, build coalitions and make our leaders listen.

I commit myself, and the entire United Nations, to this effort. We will support all leaders who rise to the challenge I have outlined today.

Dear friends,

There is no more time to waste.

As the ferocity of this summer’s wildfires and heatwaves shows, the world is changing before our eyes. 

We are careering towards the edge of the abyss. 

It is not too late to shift course, but every day that passes means the world heats up a little more and the cost of our inaction mounts. 

Every day we fail to act is a day that we step a little closer towards a fate that none of us wants -- a fate that will resonate through generations in the damage done to humankind and life on earth.
Our fate is in our hands.

The world is counting on all of us to rise to the challenge before it’s too late.

I count on you all.

Thank you.



شهریور 97 - هماهنگ کننده مقیم سازمان ملل استوارنامه خود را تقدیم دکتر ظریف کرد

تهران، 19 شهریور 1397 – هماهنگ کننده مقیم سازمان ملل متحد و نماینده برنامه عمران ملل متحد، خانم اوگوچی دنیلز، عصر امروز استوار نامه خود را تقدیم وزیر محترم امور خارجه، جناب آقای دکتر محمد جواد ظریف کرد و رسما ماموریت خود را در ایران آغاز نمود.

در این جلسه دکتر ظریف و خانم دنیلز در مورد گسترش مشارکت های استراتژیک دولت جمهوری اسلامی ایران و سازمان ملل متحد بحث و گفتگو کردند.

20180910 unrco1عکس: سازمان ملل متحد - ایران

خانم دنیلز در این مورد گفت: "برای من افتخار بزرگی بود که با دکتر ظریف دیدار کرده و استوارنامه ام را از طرف دبیرکل سازمان ملل متحد تقدیم ایشان کنم. مسئولیت من به عنوان نماینده دبیرکل سازمان ملل در ایران، راهبری تیم کشوری این سازمان برای هماهنگی فعالیت های عملیاتی در راستای توسعه در ایران است.  تیم کشوری سازمان ملل متحد و من مفتخریم که دولت جمهوری اسلامی ایران را در راستای رسیدن به اهداف توسعه و بشردوستانه حمایت کنیم."

خانم دنیلر در ادامه افزود: "همان طور که دبیرکل سازمان ملل متحد هم در صحبت هایش خاطر نشان کرده، سازمان ملل متحد در حال گذار از تحولات بلندپروازانه و جامع تر در نظام توسعه ای ملل متحد در طی دهه های اخیر است. برای سازمان ملل متحد در ایران، این زمان بسیار مهمی برای نشان دادن روابط استراتژیک ما است. سازمان ملل متحد می تواند مانند پلی باشد که جمهوری اسلامی ایران و جامعه بین الملل را به هم مرتبط می سازد."

خانم دنیلز از سال ۲۰۰۲ در سازمان ملل متحد با مسئولیت های مختلف مشغول به کار بوده است. ایشان در راستای اهداف توسعه و بشردوستانه کارشان در دفتر مرکزی، جنوب صحرای آفریقا و جنوب شرقی آسیا خدمت کرده اند.

خانم دنیلز متولد نیجریه بوده و دارای مدرک کارشناسی ارشد در رشته جغرافی است. خانم دنیلز همراه همسرشان در ایران حضور دارند.


10 Sep 2018 - New UN Resident Coordinator presents credentials to Foreign Minister Zarif

  • Published in Other

Tehran, 10 September 2018 – The incoming United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ms. Ugochi Daniels, presented her Credentials to His Excellency, Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Minister of Foreign Affairs on 10 September, officially taking up her post in-country. 

During the meeting, H.E. Foreign Minister Zarif and Ms. Daniels discussed prospects for deepening the strategic partnership between the Government of I.R. of Iran and the United Nations.

20180910 unrco1Photo credit: United Nations Iran

“It was a great honor to meet with H.E. Foreign Minister Zarif and to present him with the Letter of Credentials from the UN Secretary-General. On behalf of the UN system, I will have the overall responsibility and will exercise team leadership for the coordination of operational activities for development in I.R. of Iran. The UN Iran Team and I are humbled and honored to support the Government in reaching its development and humanitarian goals” Ms. Daniels said.

She added: “As our Secretary-General has mentioned the UN is going through “the most ambitious and comprehensive transformation of the UN development system in decades”, and for the UN in Iran, this is an especially critical time to demonstrate our strategic relevance. The UN can serve as a bridge between the Government of I.R. of Iran and the international community.”

Since 2002, Ms. Daniels has served the UN in different capacities covering its development and humanitarian work at headquarters, in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

A native of Nigeria, Ms. Daniels holds a master’s degree in Geography, and is accompanied by her husband in I.R. of Iran.


9 Sep 2018 - UNAIDS Regional Director visits Iran

  • Published in Other

UNAIDS Regional Director a.i., Rangaiyan Gurumurthy, visited the Islamic Republic of Iran 03-08 September 2018 to take part in the 12th International Addiction Science Congress (ASC2018) as well as meet with counterparts, with the primary aim of fast-tracking implementation of the Prevention Road Map, which Iran’s Minister of Health endorsed during the 71st World Health Assembly.

In his keynote address to ASC2018, he underlined the need to maintain and increase focus on HIV combination prevention based on proven interventions, including comprehensive harm reduction for people who inject drugs, in order to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. In two panel discussions on HIV and harm reduction, integration of harm reduction in the health system, expansion of ART services in harm reduction centers and differentiated care in HIV service delivery amongst other topics were discussed.

Mr Gurumurthy also met with senior country and UN officials during his visit, including Dr Moussavi of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Drs Raeisi, Haghdoost and Gouya of the Ministry of Health; and Ms Ugo Daniels, the UN Resident Coordinator. In these meetings, Mr Gurumurthy emphasised Iran’s achievements in response to the HIV epidemic as well as the continued strategic value of the collaboration between Iran and the UNAIDS family, at both country and global levels.

During his trip, the UNAIDS Regional Director also visited a harm reduction centre in south Tehran to observe Iran’s renowned harm reduction programme first-hand, and attended the launch of the HIV-themed music album “Getting to Zero”, which was produced with UNAIDS backing.


9 Sep 2018 - Tobacco; Leading cause of death, illness and impoverishment

  • Published in Health

Key facts

  • Tobacco kills up to half of its users.
  • Tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year. More than 6 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 890 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
  • Around 80% of the world's 1.1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.

The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 7 million people a year. More than 6 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 890 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

Around 80% of the 1.1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest.
Tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of health care and hinder economic development.

In some countries, children from poor households are frequently employed in tobacco farming to provide family income. These children are especially vulnerable to "green tobacco sickness", which is caused by the nicotine that is absorbed through the skin from the handling of wet tobacco leaves.

Surveillance is key

Good monitoring tracks the extent and character of the tobacco epidemic and indicates how best to tailor policies. Only 1 in 3 countries, representing 39% of the world's population, monitors tobacco use by repeating nationally representative youth and adult surveys at least once every 5 years.

Second-hand smoke kills

Second-hand smoke is the smoke that fills restaurants, offices or other enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products such as cigarettes, bidis and water-pipes. There are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer.

There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

  • In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it causes sudden death. In pregnant women, it causes low birth weight.
  • Almost half of children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke in public places.
  • Second-hand smoke causes more than 890 000 premature deaths per year.
  • In 2004, children accounted for 28% of the deaths attributable to second-hand smoke.

Every person should be able to breathe tobacco-smoke-free air. Smoke-free laws protect the health of non-smokers, are popular, do not harm business and encourage smokers to quit.

Over 1.4 billion people, or 20% of the world's population, are protected by comprehensive national smoke-free laws.

Tobacco users need help to quit

Studies show that few people understand the specific health risks of tobacco use. For example, a 2009 survey in China revealed that only 38% of smokers knew that smoking causes coronary heart disease and only 27% knew that it causes stroke.

Among smokers who are aware of the dangers of tobacco, most want to quit. Counselling and medication can more than double the chance that a smoker who tries to quit will succeed.

National comprehensive cessation services with full or partial cost-coverage are available to assist tobacco users to quit in only 26 countries, representing 33% of the world's population.

Picture warnings work

Hard-hitting anti-tobacco advertisements and graphic pack warnings – especially those that include pictures – reduce the number of children who begin smoking and increase the number of smokers who quit.

Graphic warnings can persuade smokers to protect the health of non-smokers by smoking less inside the home and avoiding smoking near children. Studies carried out after the implementation of pictorial package warnings in Brazil, Canada, Singapore and Thailand consistently show that pictorial warnings significantly increase people's awareness of the harms of tobacco use.

78 countries, representing 47% of the world's population, meet the best practice for pictorial warnings, which includes the warnings in the local language and cover an average of at least half of the front and back of cigarette packs. Mass media campaigns can also reduce tobacco consumption by influencing people to protect non-smokers and convincing youths to stop using tobacco.

Mass media campaigns can also reduce tobacco consumption by influencing people to protect non-smokers and convincing youths to stop using tobacco.

Around 44% of the world's population live in the 43 countries that have aired at least 1 strong anti-tobacco mass media campaign within the last 2 years.

Ad bans lower consumption

Bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship can reduce tobacco consumption.

  • A comprehensive ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship could decrease tobacco consumption by an average of about 7%, with some countries experiencing a decline in consumption of up to 16%.
  • Only 37 countries, representing 15% of the world’s population, have completely banned all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Taxes discourage tobacco use

Tobacco taxes are the most cost-effective way to reduce tobacco use, especially among young and poor people. A tax increase that increases tobacco prices by 10% decreases tobacco consumption by about 4% in high-income countries and about 5% in low- and middle-income countries.

Even so, high tobacco taxes is a measure that is rarely implemented. Only 32 countries, with 10% of the world's population, have introduced taxes on tobacco products so that more than 75% of the retail price is tax. Tobacco tax revenues are on average 250 times higher than spending on tobacco control, based on available data.

Illicit trade of tobacco products must be stopped

The illicit trade in tobacco products poses major health, economic and security concerns around the world. It is estimated that 1 in every 10 cigarettes and tobacco products consumed globally is illicit. The illicit market is supported by various players, ranging from petty peddlers to organized criminal networks involved in arms and human trafficking.

Tax avoidance (licit) and tax evasion (illicit) undermine the effectiveness of tobacco control policies, particularly higher tobacco taxes. These activities range from legal actions, such as purchasing tobacco products in lower tax jurisdictions, to illegal ones such as smuggling, illicit manufacturing and counterfeiting.

The tobacco industry and others often argue that high tobacco product taxes lead to tax evasion. However, the evidence shows that non-tax factors including weak governance, high levels of corruption, poor government commitment to tackling illicit tobacco, ineffective customs and tax administration, and informal distribution channels for tobacco products are often of equal or greater importance.

There is broad agreement that control of illicit trade benefits tobacco control and public health and result in broader benefits for governments. Critically, this will reduce premature deaths from tobacco use and raise tax revenue for governments. Stopping illicit trade in tobacco products is a health priority, and is achievable. But to do so requires improvement of national and sub-national tax administration systems and international collaboration. The WHO FCTC Protocol to Eliminate the Illicit Trade of Tobacco Products (ITP) is the key supply side policy to reduce tobacco use and its health and economic consequences.

While publicly stating its support for action against the illicit trade, the tobacco industry’s behind-the-scenes behaviour has been very different. Internal industry documents released as a result of court cases demonstrate that the tobacco industry has actively fostered the illicit trade globally. It also works to block implementation of tobacco control measures, such as tax increases and pictorial health warnings, by misleadingly arguing they will fuel the illicit trade.

Experience from many countries demonstrate that illicit trade can be successfully addressed even when tobacco taxes and prices are raised, resulting in increased tax revenues and reduced tobacco use. Implementing and enforcing strong measures to control illicit trade enhances the effectiveness of significantly increased tobacco taxes and prices, as well as strong tobacco control policies, in reducing tobacco use and its health and economic consequences.

WHO response

WHO is committed to fighting the global tobacco epidemic. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) entered into force in February 2005 and has today 181 Parties covering more than 90% of the world's population.

The WHO FCTC is a milestone in the promotion of public health. It is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of people to the highest standard of health, provides legal dimensions for international health cooperation and sets high standards for compliance.

In 2008, WHO introduced a practical, cost-effective way to scale up implementation of the main demand reduction provisions of the WHO FCTC on the ground: MPOWER. Each MPOWER measure corresponds to at least 1 provision of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The 6 MPOWER measures are:

  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies
  • Protect people from tobacco use
  • Offer help to quit tobacco use
  • Warn about the dangers of tobacco
  • Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
  • Raise taxes on tobacco.

For more details on progress made for tobacco control at global, regional and country level, please refer to the series of WHO reports on the global tobacco epidemic.

The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products requires a wide range of measures relating to the tobacco supply chain, including the licensing of imports, exports and manufacture of tobacco products; the establishment of tracking and tracing systems and the imposition of penal sanctions on those responsible for illicit trade. It would also criminalize illicit production and cross-border smuggling. The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, the first Protocol to the Convention, was adopted in November 2012 at the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties in Seoul, Republic of Korea, and is currently open for ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession by the Parties to the WHO FCTC.

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