Media centre

New report on tobacco use and control efforts; the consequences of female genital mutilation

11 February 2008 -- WHO releases the first comprehensive analysis of global tobacco use and control efforts; and WHO marks 6 February as International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.

Transcript of podcast

Veronica Riemer: You're listening to the WHO podcast. My name is Veronica Riemer. This is episode 27.

In this episode: WHO releases the first comprehensive analysis of global tobacco use and control efforts; and WHO marks 6 February as International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.

Story 1

WHO releases the first comprehensive analysis of tobacco control use and control efforts. The report shows that only 5% of the world’s population lives in countries that implement measures to reduce smoking.

The statistics indicate that the tobacco epidemic is increasing. It is shifting towards developing countries, with tobacco use growing fastest in low-income countries. The report pinpoints the factors behind these trends: the low price of tobacco products, aggressive marketing, lack of awareness about the dangers, and inconsistent policies to protect citizens. Among the most ominous of these recent trends is the rise of tobacco use in girls and young women. The report also finds that increasing the price of tobacco through higher taxes is the single most effective way to decrease consumption and encourage tobacco users to quit.

WHO recommends six measures called MPOWER. Dr Douglas Bettcher from WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative explains the thinking behind MPOWER.

Dr Douglas Bettcher: The MPOWER package is based on solid scientific evidence. It calls on governments and civil society to move forward in monitoring the tobacco epidemic and stepping up our efforts in the area of surveillance and monitoring to protect individuals from exposure to tobacco smoke; to offer populations and individuals the help they need to quit; to warn the public and individuals about the dangers of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke; to enforce vigorously the bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and to raise taxes. We know that if we can implement these measures effectively we will be able save millions of lives in the coming years.

Veronica Riemer: The MPOWER package provides countries with a roadmap to help them meet their commitments to the global tobacco treaty - the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which came into force in 2005.

Story 2

Veronica Riemer: On the 6th February, the world marked International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. Female genital mutilation is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is often carried out in unhygienic conditions without anaesthetic. In extreme cases, it can result in death.

Elise Johansen from the WHO Department of Gender, Reproductive Rights, Sexual Health and Adolescence explains the problem.

Elise Johansen: It is of concern to WHO because it is an unnecessary procedure which has no health benefits, but has serious long- and short-term health risks, and because it is a violation of the right of the child and the right of women. It is also a very widespread procedure with between 100 and 140 million girls who are living now with the consequences of FGM, and there are an additional 3 million girls at risk every year.

Veronica Riemer: The ceremony is still carried out in over 25 African countries and several countries in Asia and the Middle East. Migration has also increased the number of girls and women living outside their place of origin who have undergone or may undergo the practice.

Dr Heli Bathija, in the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research explains the long-term consequences.

Dr Heli Bathija: We know from our research that women who have undergone this procedure in their childhood and youth, when they are pregnant and ready to give birth, they themselves are at risk and their infant is at risk of dying. Often, for these women their labour is longer, they have more caesarean sections, they have more tearing, they have a need to stay longer in the hospital and also the blood loss is greater.

Veronica Riemer: So what action is being taken?

Dr Heli Bathija: In the past few years, we feel that there is momentum building. There is more understanding of what we can do to stop the practice. So many organizations within the UN system and NGO and local organizations are working together. There is a clear consensus that you have to work on many ways, you don't have just one single answer. We have to work together with the community.

Veronica Riemer: That's all for this WHO podcast. Thanks for listening. You can read more about these stories, and get more public health information at