GENEVA -- The United Nations health agency yesterday issued its strongest policy recommendations yet for controlling tobacco use, urging all countries to ban smoking at indoor workplaces and in public buildings.
"The evidence is clear. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke," said Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization.
Tobacco use is the world's leading cause of preventable death, accounting for 10 percent of adult fatalities, according to the WHO. It is responsible for 5.4 million deaths each year, a figure that is expected to rise to 8.3 million by 2030, the agency says.
Increasing numbers of nonsmokers will also die unless governments take action, the WHO said in its 50-page report. It said governments of both rich and poor countries should declare all public indoor places smoke-free, by passing laws and actively enforcing measures to ensure that "everyone has a right to breathe clean air, free from tobacco smoke."
"This is not about shaming the smoker. This is not even about banning smoking," said Dr. Armando Peruga, who heads WHO's anti tobacco campaign. "This is about society taking decisions about where to smoke and where not to smoke."
He cited Ireland and Uruguay as governments that have successfully tackled smoking by creating and enforcing smoke-free environments.