European Union External Action

Statement by Commissioner Kyriakides ahead of World No Tobacco Day

05/06/2020 - 16:42

Every year, around 6 million people worldwide are killed by tobacco. These are 6 million deaths that could have been prevented, 6 million persons who could still be with us today - and a lot of suffering that could have been avoided. And while we know that tobacco use is the single greatest preventable cause of death, it continues to cause diseases and loss of life.

In the EU, tobacco is also the leading preventable cause of cancer mortality, with 27% of all cancer deaths linked to smoking. If we eliminate the use of tobacco, we may even be able to avoid as much as 90% of all lung cancers. And in addition to severe health risks, in 2017, the economic costs of smoking were estimated at 4.6% of EU GDP.

This is why, in Europe's Beating Cancer Plan, we will have a strong focus on tobacco control and take strong action to reduce the exposure to this key risk factor. And part of our priorities is to protect our young people from its dangerous effects – this is at the core of EU tobacco policies. I therefore very much welcome the focus of this year's World No Tobacco Day, on Sunday 31 May, on young people.

This year, with the menthol ban for cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco taking effect on 20 May, we are marking an important milestone in our work on tobacco control and in our efforts to protect our youth and to help them to say no to tobacco. 20 May also marked the first anniversary of another important milestone in tobacco control: the launch of the European tobacco traceability system – a significant achievement in the EU's fight against illicit trade in tobacco products.

This week, we have presented our proposal for the most ambitious and far-reaching funding programme ever for health – EU4Health. With an unprecedented €9.4 billion in EU funding, we will be able to significantly increase our support for cancer prevention and care.

Despite the fact that up to 40% of cancers might be preventable, only an average of 3% of health budgets are spent on prevention across the EU. And with the current impact of COVID-19 on health in general, and on cancer prevention and care specifically, there is an urgent need to step up our efforts.

Tobacco use is never safe. Therefore, on this World No Tobacco Day, the best decision would be to leave smoking in the past.

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