The World Health Organization reports hundreds of thousands of people die each year from passive smoke. In its second report on the global tobacco epidemic, WHO says there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. The U.N. health agency urges governments to take action to protect people.
The World Health Organization says slight progress is being made on smoke-free policies. It notes 5.4 percent of the world's population was covered by comprehensive smoke-free laws in 2008. That is up from just over three percent in 2007.
Coordinator of WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative, Armando Peruga, says 362-million people are legally protected from tobacco smoking in restaurants, bars and other indoor public places.
"That is 154 million more than the previous year. Progress has been made on smoking policies. Yet, more than 90 percent of the people worldwide are still not protected from the dangers of second-hand tobacco smoke exposure."
The report says exposure to second-hand smoke causes 600,000 deaths every year.
WHO calls tobacco use the leading preventable cause of death, killing more than 5-million people prematurely every year. It says the annual death toll could rise to 8 million by 2030 unless urgent action is taken to control the tobacco epidemic. It says more than 80 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries.
Dr. Peruga says smoking is declining in developed countries. So, he says the tobacco industry is looking for new markets in developing countries.
"Africa is one in which right now the number of smokers and the prevalence of smoking is relatively low compared to others and, therefore, where the market can increase substantially. How do they do that? Well, it is through price policy, very affordable cigarettes and fighting any measures to ban the indirect and direct advertising promotion and sponsorship."
Dr. Peruga says the tobacco industry also targets young people, especially young women, with its products.
Nearly 170 countries have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The Convention contains five measures aimed at controlling the use of tobacco and protecting people from tobacco smoke.