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World No Tobacco Day: Tobacco also endangers the environment

World No Tobacco Day is commemorated on 31 May. This year’s focus is on the harmful effects of tobacco on the environment under the slogan, Tobacco: Threat to Our Environment. To this end, the Ministry of Health together with the National Institute of Public Health, the WHO Regional Office for Europe and non-governmental organisations involved in tobacco today organised a national symposium on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day.

The Government adopted the Strategy for reducing tobacco use – For a Tobacco-Free Slovenia 2022–2030

The Government adopted the Strategy for reducing tobacco use – For a Tobacco-Free Slovenia 2022–2030 | Author

The impact of the tobacco industry and its products on the environment is frequently overlooked, although this is an extensive and growing problem, which increases pressure on the fragile ecosystems of our planet. "The objective is to raise public awareness about the impact of the entire tobacco cycle on the environment, from cultivation, production and distribution to the toxic waste generated in its production," highlighted Dr Aiga Rurane, WHO Representative and Head of Country Office in Slovenia.

According to Prof Dr John E. Schneider, temporary WHO consultant and analyst in the field of health services, policies and health economics, more than 20 billion tonnes of water is used annually in the life cycle of tobacco products, more than 200,000 hectares of forests are cut down and more than 25 per cent of workers become ill. In its life cycle, tobacco accounts for about one third of all global waste.

In his address on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, Janez Poklukar, Minister of Health, said, "With various measures and activities, we have been limiting the use of tobacco products among Slovenian citizens for several decades. Due to the efforts of the state, experts and the civil society in recent years, Slovenia stands side by side with the most advanced countries in the world and has contributed to a decrease in the use of tobacco products among adults and adolescents. The Ministry of Health regularly and through public calls co-finances programmes intended for various vulnerable groups to prevent them from taking up smoking and to provide help with quitting the habit. These programmes are implemented by non-governmental organisations in cooperation with expert institutions. Together with the Police and non-governmental organisations, we also carry out media campaigns to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking in cars and other enclosed spaces.

I am pleased that several days ago the Government of the Republic of Slovenia adopted the Strategy for reducing tobacco use – For a Tobacco-Free Slovenia 2022–2030, which includes a long-term vision, i.e. that Slovenia will be a tobacco-free society by 2040. This means that the proportion of people using tobacco and other related products will not exceed five per cent. Various activities designed to prevent the take up of tobacco use and facilitate the rejection of tobacco and related products are planned, including additional training of healthcare and school personnel. The development of programmes for particularly vulnerable groups and a community approach to environmental protection will contribute to decreased use of the relevant products, not least in terms of reducing waste pollution."

The data of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey, carried out by the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) since 2002, reveal that the prevalence of tobacco smoking among adolescents decreased significantly between 2002 and 2018. The prevalence of cigarette smoking among adolescents has also been declining since 2018.

In conclusion, the Minister asked everyone present to become involved in the realisation of the long-term vision, which is, a tobacco-free Slovenia. He also thanked those who are actively striving for the health of each person, society and, ultimately, the entire planet.