Every year on the 31 May, World No Tobacco Day is celebrated across the world.

It is a day that raises the profile of the health risks of smoking, and encourages smokers to go without cigarettes for the day.

It furthermore encourages Governments to implement effective measures and policies to reduce tobacco use.

What are the aims?

The World Health Organization first created the day in 1987. It aims to increase awareness of the devastating harms of smoking, secondhand smoking and now thirdhand smoking, as well as highlight the deceitful tactics of the tobacco industry.

It furthermore contributes to protecting present and future generations from starting to smoke, and most importantly, the day encourages and supports smokers to quit.

How devastating is it?

Tobacco use is a threat to any person, regardless of gender, age, race, cultural or educational background. It brings suffering, disease, and death, impoverishing families and national economies.

Globally, there are more than 7 million deaths from tobacco use every year, a figure that is predicted to grow to more than 8 million a year by 2030 without intensified action. Of these deaths, more than 600,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing in secondhand smoke.

Every year in Australia, 18,762 people die from smoking, and closer to home in Victoria, this is about 4,000 deaths a year that could have been prevented.

What is this year’s theme for World No Tobacco Day?

The theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day is “Tobacco and heart disease.” The campaign aims to increase awareness of the link between smoking and its effects on the heart, including cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Combined, heart disease and stroke are the world’s leading causes of death. In fact if you smoke, you are four times more likely to die from heart disease and three times more likely to die from cardiac death.

Smoking damages and narrows the blood vessels (or blocks them) and causes atherosclerosis – the build-up of fatty deposits, which causes the blood to thicken and form clots inside veins and arteries.  This includes the arteries leading to the brain and when this becomes blocked or bleeds, it can lead to a stroke.

Smoking not only can cause heart attacks, stroke or sudden death, it also contributes to the development of peripheral arterial and vascular disease. This is where the blood vessels become narrower, and as a result, there is reduced circulation of the blood to the affected body parts, which is usually the legs.

Secondhand smoking can also cause heart disease – it can trigger a heart attack or stroke in non-smokers. Approximately 90% of the deaths caused by secondhand smoke are due to heart disease…

As the World Health Organization highlights, “tobacco does break hearts” in many different ways – view the video below for further details.

Get involved in World No Tobacco Day! Are you thinking about quitting?

If you’re thinking about quitting, World No Tobacco Day provides the perfect opportunity to have another go. You can start by not smoking for a few hours, or not smoking for a half a day, or try and quit for the whole day. The decision is yours – take one day at a time and think about the benefits you are gaining. Think about how good you are feeling and looking! Think about how much money you’re saving – what could you spend that money on?

Want to try but are not sure what to do?

If you’re interested in having a go, it’s important to remember that a craving usually lasts 2 to 5 minutes, so it is important to put some strategies in place that will help you get through the urges. Below are some quick tips that can help you:

  • Eat a piece of fruit, a healthy snack or chew some sugar free gum
  • Play a game on your phone/computer or tablet
  • Do some quick stretches, go for a short walk or do some formal exercise
  • Practice deep breathing or mindfulness by focusing on the present moment
  • Play your favourite music and sing out loud, or dance
  • Brush your teeth or rinse your mouth with mouth wash
  • Use some nicotine gum/the lozenges/the mouth spray to help take the edge of your withdrawal symptoms. Or try the nicotine patches – they are available at a reduced cost via a prescription through your doctor
  • Use combination therapy (the patch and gum for example), or speak to your doctor about the other prescription medications, such as Zyban and Champix
  • Call the Quitline (13 7848) for further support

Going smokefree is achievable

Create your own personal list of strategies, as this will help you stay on track.

Quit before? Learn from your previous quitting experiences of what worked and didn’t work, and have another go!

Remember that there are many people who have successfully quit smoking. With the right information and support – you too can be successful.

If you would like further information on quitting, have a look at our previous articles, and for information on World No Tobacco Day, visit the World Health Organization.

Until next time, wishing you all great health and wellbeing and a Happy World No Tobacco Day!

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Heart Foundation (2108). Smoking and your heart.

Scollo, MM & Winstanley, MH (2018). Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria.

Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health (2014). Let’s make the next generation tobacco-free. Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

World Health Organization (2018). World No Tobacco Day. Tobacco and heart disease.