- 30 May 2018 10:04 AM
“Tobacco breaks hearts – choose health, not tobacco.”
Smokers are 2–4 times more likely than non-smokers to suffer coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular stroke, and even adults exposed to other people’s smoke have a 25–30% raised risk.
“We are finding that although the public generally realizes that smoking is harmful, they are often unaware of its key link with heart disease and stroke.
Tobacco is contributing to the increased incidence of chronic diseases and their fatalities and has a devastating impact on patients and their families,” said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
“Giving up smoking reduces the risk of these diseases irrespective of how long you have been smoking and, for example, 10 years after quitting, your risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker.”
The effects of giving up smoking can be seen almost immediately:
- Within 20 minutes, the heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- Within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops to normal.
- Within 2–12 weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases.
- A year after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is about half that of a smoker's.
- Between 5 and 15 years after quitting, the stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker.
- Fifteen years after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a person who never smoked.
Cardiovascular diseases: the leading cause of death across the world
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and rheumatic heart disease. They kill 17.7 million people globally every year, which is a third of all deaths.
Across the WHO European Region, where 28% of adults smoke, 46% of the 4.2 million smokers who died in 2015, died from CVDs.
Deaths from CVDs (both sexes, all ages) are nearly twice as high in the east (central Europe, eastern Europe and central Asia) as in the western part of the Region, and most of them are avoidable deaths among men. In Hungary, where 28% of adults smoke, 34% of men – it is estimated that CVDs are responsible for 62 000 deaths a year.
Measures to stop smoking reduce CVDs
“In recent years, the trend has been very encouraging,” said Dr Jakab. “Increasing numbers of people are giving up smoking and are more aware of the risks. The families and friends of smokers who develop heart disease or get strokes, may now suspect that smoking might have been the cause.
They are right. At the same time, governments are conscious that reducing the use of tobacco has a positive effect not only on the health of the population, but on the economics and health services of the country – a healthy country is a prosperous one.
The population of Hungary will benefit from adopting the policies which are successfully reducing rates of smoking across the Region.”
The policy measures which are increasingly being adopted by countries of the European Region in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) are proven to make a major difference to CVDs.
The measures include increasing excise taxes and prices on tobacco products; introducing plain/standardized packaging and/or large graphic health warnings on all tobacco packaging; enforcing comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; eliminating exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke in all indoor workplaces, public places and public transport; and running effective mass media campaigns that inform the public about the harms of smoking/tobacco use and second-hand smoke.
In line with the WHO FCTC and other countries in the European Region, Hungary has, in recent years, introduced complex measures to curb smoking, including
(i) the smoking ban in enclosed and in certain open public areas,
(ii) the drastic reduction of the number of tobacco sale points,
(iii) the legally binding increase of excise tax that resulted in rising prices for tobacco products, including new, modified tobacco products, and
(iv) adopted legislation for plain packaging and graphic health warnings for tobacco products.
These measures were followed by decreased smoking prevalence among both heavy smokers and occasional smokers.
As reported by the experts of the Koranyi National Institute of Pulmonology, smoking prevalence in Hungary decreased from the peak 34% in 2003 to 28% in 2014, with 34% of men and 22% of women reported smoking.
However, the rate of women smokers is still among the highest in Europe.
In order to further reduce rate of smoking, Hungarian policymakers and experts, in collaboration with WHO, are paying particular attention to expand and disseminate health promotion programs, specifically for smoking prevention and cessation.