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Every year, on 31st of May, the World Health Organisation marks World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. This year respiratory patients called for equal access to smoking cessation programmes in Europe.

It is well known that tobacco is the key risk to develop respiratory and incurable conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but public health policies aimed to help quitting smoking still provide limited support to patients in many European countries.

EFA, together with Members, has conducted a survey among 19 European countries to map the public authorities’ responsible for policies impacting COPD patients, including smoking cessation programmes. The survey report “Harmonising prevention and other measures for COPD patients across Europe” shows important inequalities among European countries regarding the existence of support programmes, counselling and reimbursement of therapies.

In a press release, EFA President Christine Rolland said: “Nicotine is a highly-addictive substance. Patients willing to quit smoking need access to smoking cessation programmes. As patients’ representatives, we call today on European health ministries to grant access to professional cessation support and free-of-charge treatments for all respiratory patients, especially those living with COPD, to reduce the burden tobacco poses on them”.

Tobacco smoke will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030 if no action is taken. EFA’s report encourages to take stock of the successful smoking cessation measures that could be implemented in other countries in order to harmonise prevention and healthcare measures for COPD patients across Europe.

More information can be found in EFA’s World No Tobacco Day press release.

Need to put an end to the illicit trade of tobacco products

This year’s World No Tobacco Day topic was to end the illicit trade of tobacco products. From many angles, the illicit trade of tobacco products is a major global concern, including health, legal and economic, governance and corruption. The European Commission estimates that illicit trade in cigarettes costs the EU and their Member States over €10 billion annually in lost tax and customs revenue.

In response to the threat posed by illicit tobacco trade, the international community negotiated and adopted in November 2012 the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, the first protocol to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. For more information, please access the European Commission’s report analysing tracking and tracing tobacco systems in Europe.

Decreasing smoking trend in Europe

On the occasion of the World No Tobacco Day, the European Commission has published a new Eurobarometer report on tobacco consumption in the European Union. The report includes the following main findings:

  • There has been a decrease of 2% in the proportion of smokers since 2012. Smokers are more likely to be found in Southern Europe, while those who have stopped smoking tend to be found in Northern Europe;
  • Smokers smoke an average of 14.2 cigarettes per day;
  • Price (69%) is more important than brand (66%) when choosing cigarettes, although taste is the most important factor (87%);
  • 73% of workers are rarely or never exposed to smoke indoors in their workplace, but 6% are exposed for at least one hour per day;
  • The average age at which Europeans start smoking regularly is 17.6;
  • Nicotine replacement medications (12%) and e-cigarettes (10%) were the most common aids used to try to quit, but most (65%) try to quit without assistance;
  • 12% of Europeans have at least tried e-cigarettes or similar devices, while 2% are currently using them;
  • Respondents most often say they have started using e-cigarettes in order to reduce their tobacco use or to stop smoking (67%), while 44% do so to smoke where tobacco smoking is not allowed, and 24% because they are attractive, cool or fashionable;
  • Using e-cigarettes only helps a small proportion of smokers to quit – just 14% were able to quit completely, while 13% succeeded initially but then started again, and 21% were able to reduce their tobacco use but not quit. However, 49% said the use of e-cigarettes had not helped them reduce or stop smoking tobacco, while 4% of this group increased their tobacco use.