What would the world be like without tobacco use? For one day, the World Health Organization (WHO) wants us to try to find out. The WHO coordinates the annual World No Tobacco Day with the aim of eliminating tobacco use around the world.

This year, the purpose of World No Tobacco Day is to encourage countries to legislate the packaging grants for tobacco companies. Ordinary packaging has been shown to reduce the attractiveness of smoking and emphasize the warning signs on it, thus reducing the overall consumption of tobacco. World No Tobacco Day is one small, annual step toward eliminating tobacco use everywhere, which would be a massive achievement for public health.

In 2012, 21 percent of the world’s population aged 15 and older smoked tobacco. Rates among especially adolescents are rising in regions such as Africa and Southeast Asia, which is a reflection of increased marketing efforts aimed at young people. These areas have few regulations regarding advertising for the tobacco industry. Tobacco is one of the most dangerous legal substances in existence, and literally kills up to half of its users. Six million people die each year from tobacco-related diseases, and about 600,000 of them are due to non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke. Tobacco contains many known carcinogens and can cause cardiovascular problems, respiratory diseases such as asthma and emphysema and various cancers.

The WHO has worked with the governments of several countries to tackle this public health problem, and some promising findings have been reached on reducing the rates of tobacco use. The most effective methods found so far fall under three main targets: the elimination of tobacco marketing, the elimination of the availability of tobacco products and the support of the tobacco cessation. This may include the ban on tobacco advertising, the taxation of tobacco products and the encouragement of doctors to refer their patients to tobacco cessation programs and support groups. Past World No Tobacco Days focused on banning sponsorships by tobacco companies, stopping illegal trade in tobacco products and raising taxes on tobacco products.

Countries like Australia have already achieved great success in reducing smoking rates using ordinary packaging legislation, and about a dozen other countries are considering the option. France, Ireland and the United Kingdom have recently adopted ordinary packaging legislation, and will see the effect when the legislation comes into force this year. But with a proven strategy like this, countries can be relatively sure that their legislation will make a difference. To learn more about World No Tobacco Day, you can visit the WHO website. And if you’re looking for tips on how to quit smoking, visit your local AFC Urgent Care for advice and support.