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World No Tobacco Day

People, non-governmental organizations and governments unite on World No Tobacco Day to draw attention to the health problems that tobacco use can cause. It is held on May 31 each year.

Hand saying no thanks to a packages of cigarettes offered

World No Tobacco Day focuses on informing people about health problems associated with tobacco use.

©iStockphoto.com/Anneke Schram

What Do People Do?

World No Tobacco Day is a day for people, non-governmental organizations and governments organize various activities to make people aware of the health problems that tobacco use can cause. These activities include:

  • Public marches and demonstrations, often with vivid banners.
  • Advertising campaigns and educational programs.
  • People going into public places to encourage people to stop smoking.
  • The introduction of bans on smoking in particular places or types of advertising.
  • Meetings for anti-tobacco campaigners.

Moreover, laws restricting smoking in particular areas may come into effect and wide reaching health campaigns may be launched.

Public Life

World No Tobacco Day is not a public holiday.

Background

Tobacco is a product of the fresh leaves of nicotiana plants. It is used as an aid in spiritual ceremonies and a recreational drug. It originated in the Americas, but was introduced to Europe by Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal in 1559. It quickly became popular and an important trade crop.

Medical research made it clear during the 1900s that tobacco use increased the likelihood of many illnesses including heart attacks, strokes, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema and many forms of cancer. This is true for all ways in which tobacco is used, including:

  • Cigarettes and cigars.
  • Hand rolling tobacco.
  • Bidis and kreteks (cigarettes containing tobacco with herbs or spices).
  • Pipes and water pipes.
  • Chewing tobacco.
  • Snuff.
  • Snus (a moist version of snuff popular in some countries such as Sweden).
  • Creamy snuff (a paste consisting of tobacco, clove oil, glycerin, spearmint, menthol, and camphor sold in a toothpaste tube popular in India).
  • Gutkha (a version of chewing tobacco mixed with areca nut, catechu, slaked lime and other condiments popular in India and South-East Asia).

On May 15, 1987, the World Health Organization passed a resolution, calling for April 7, 1988, to be the first World No Smoking Day. This date was chosen because it was the 40th anniversary of the World Health Organization. On May 17, 1989, the World Health Organization passed a resolution calling for May 31 to be annually known as World No Tobacco Day. This event has been observed each year since 1989.

Themes

The themes of World No Tobacco Day have been:

  • 2009 – Tobacco health warnings.
  • 2008 – Tobacco-free youth.
  • 2007 – Smoke free inside.
  • 2006 – Tobacco: deadly in any form or disguise.
  • 2005 – Health professionals against tobacco.
  • 2004 – Tobacco and poverty, a vicious circle.
  • 2003 – Tobacco free film, tobacco free fashion.
  • 2002 – Tobacco free sports.
  • 2001 – Second-hand smoke kills.
  • 2000 – Tobacco kills, don't be duped.
  • 1999 – Leave the pack behind.
  • 1998 – Growing up without tobacco.
  • 1997 – United for a tobacco free world.
  • 1996 – Sport and art without tobacco: play it tobacco free.
  • 1995 – Tobacco costs more than you think.
  • 1994 – Media and tobacco: get the message across.
  • 1993 – Health services: our windows to a tobacco free world.
  • 1992 – Tobacco free workplaces: safer and healthier.
  • 1991 – Public places and transport: better be tobacco free.
  • 1990 – Childhood and youth without tobacco: growing up without tobacco.
  • 1989 – Initial observance.

Symbols

Images that symbolize World No Tobacco Day are:

  • Clean ashtrays with flowers in them.
  • Ashtrays with images of body parts, such as the heart and lungs, which are damaged by tobacco use.
  • No smoking signs.
  • Symbols of death, such as gravestones and skulls, with cigarettes.
  • Images of the diseases caused by tobacco use.

These images are often displayed as posters, on Internet sites and blogs, on clothing and public transport vehicles.

World No Tobacco Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2010MonMay 31World No Tobacco DayUnited Nations observance
2011TueMay 31World No Tobacco DayUnited Nations observance
2012ThuMay 31World No Tobacco DayUnited Nations observance
2013FriMay 31World No Tobacco DayUnited Nations observance
2014SatMay 31World No Tobacco DayUnited Nations observance
2015SunMay 31World No Tobacco DayUnited Nations observance
2016TueMay 31World No Tobacco DayUnited Nations observance
2017WedMay 31World No Tobacco DayUnited Nations observance
2018ThuMay 31World No Tobacco DayUnited Nations observance
2019FriMay 31World No Tobacco DayUnited Nations observance
2020SunMay 31World No Tobacco DayUnited Nations observance

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