GENEVA - The World Health Organization reports tobacco kills 1.9 million people, or 20 percent of all those who die every year from coronary heart disease. In advance of World Heart Day (September 29), WHO, the World Heart Federation and the University of Newcastle Australia have released a new report warning of the dangers of tobacco-induced heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death on Earth, killing an estimated 17.9 million people every year. The World Health Organization reports smoking and second-hand smoke are responsible for nearly two million of these deaths.
Director for Health Promotion at WHO, Ruediger Krech said smokers should take heart. All is not lost. He told VOA even life-long smokers who quit their deadly habit can prevent dying prematurely from heart attack or stroke.
"That's the good news. If tobacco users take immediate action now and quit, then their risk of heart disease will decrease by 50 percent after one year of not smoking. So, you can, if you quit smoking now, you can have immediate health effects on that," he said.
Besides tobacco use, major risk factors for heart disease include lack of exercise, unhealthy diet, high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity and being overweight.
WHO also warns high blood pressure and heart disease increase the risk of severe COVID-19. Krech said people are beginning to understand that smoking during a raging pandemic is not a good idea.
"There are about 400 million people who want to quit smoking because of COVID-19. They now realize that a pandemic like this which is in the respiratory tract actually-you are more vulnerable, and you will actually develop more severe symptoms," he said.
While it is not easy to quit smoking, tools such as nicotine patches are available to help. WHO warns against using smokeless tobacco, which every year, it says, causes around 200,000 deaths from coronary heart disease. It adds e-cigarettes also raise blood pressure, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as COVID-19.
Krech said governments can help people quit by creating communal smoke-free zones, banning tobacco advertising and raising taxes on these deadly commodities.