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Obama Congratulates Non-Smokers, Slams Tobacco Companies

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WHO Worldwide Tobacco Facts

    -- The World Health Organization describes the tobacco epidemic as "one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced."

    -- WHO says millions of people die each year as a result of tobacco use, and the number will only grow unless action is taken. It says tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the world, with tobacco killing up to half of its users.

    -- Tobacco use is one of the main risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, lung diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.

    -- The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year, of which more than 600,000 are people exposed to second-hand smoke.

    -- Unless urgent action is taken, the epidemic could kill up to 8 million people each year by 2030, of which more than 80 percent will live in low- and middle-income countries.

    -- Consumption of tobacco products is increasing globally, though it is decreasing in some high-income and upper middle-income countries.
    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.

    -- Because there is a lag of several years between when people start using tobacco and when their health suffers, the epidemic of tobacco-related disease and death has just begun. Tobacco caused 100 million deaths in the 20th century. If current trends continue, it will cause up to one billion deaths in the 21st century.

    -- Further information can be found at http://www.who.int/topics/tobacco/en/index.html.

U.S. President Barack Obama, a former smoker himself, has congratulated everyone who has taken part in a national day without using tobacco, while slamming tobacco companies for opposing new labeling requirements.

In a video message, the president said tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States.  He said the country has made progress in reducing the number of Americans who smoke, although 46 million people in the U.S. remain addicted.

The president had strong criticism for tobacco companies, saying they are trying to block graphic, new warning labels because "they don't want to be honest about the consequences of using their products."

His remarks were in observance of the "Great American Smokeout" by the American Cancer Society, a group that works to prevent cancer and tobacco use.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved nine graphic ads that cigarette companies would have to put on their packages.  The ads include images of rotting teeth, diseased lungs, a person smoking through a tracheotomy opening, and the body of a dead smoker.

Cigarette companies have filed legal challenges against the requirement for the new labels, arguing they amount to anti-smoking advocacy.

The president was declared "tobacco free" during his latest physical in October.  In his video message, he said quitting smoking is hard, "Believe me, I know."

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