This May 31st, we celebrate World No Tobacco Day   a day to highlight not only the significant risks and tragic, preventable consequences of tobacco use, but to double our efforts to reduce the consumption of tobacco products in the United States and around the world.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States. In our country, cigarette smoking among adults has decreased to about 15 percent, but we still face an extreme health and economic burden caused by tobacco product use: 480,000 deaths a year and an estimated cost of $289 billion annually in direct medical care and lost productivity. On a global level, the impact of tobacco use in most countries is at least as extreme as it is in the United States, and the burden continues to grow. The World Health Organization currently estimates that tobacco use causes nearly 6 million deaths a year around the world and at current rates could kill up to 1 billion people in this century compared to 100 million in the 20th century  The global economic costs of tobacco use are well over $500 billion a year and growing

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took a significant step toward achieving our national goals by finalizing a rule extending its regulatory authority to cover all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah (water pipe) tobacco, among others. This action marks a new chapter in the government’s efforts to end preventable tobacco-related deaths and is a milestone in consumer protection. Going forward, the FDA will be able to review and regulate all new tobacco products not yet on the market. This historic step will help our government and our society improve public health and reduce the dire consequences of tobacco use to present and future generations.

Increased coordination among nations is necessary to sustain effective tobacco control. As countries put in place new and innovative tobacco policies, we can all benefit from sharing our experience and successes. The health effects of tobacco use are truly a global public health crisis, but one played out individual by individual, family by family, and highly influenced by locality and custom.  At every level, each of us can act to reduce the terrible toll that tobacco products place on the health of people we know, as well as hundreds of millions we do not know personally all over the globe.

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