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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WHO Urges Ban on Public Smoking

GENEVA -- The United Nations' health agency on Tuesday issued its strongest policy recommendations yet for controlling tobacco use, urging all countries to ban smoking at indoor workplaces and in public buildings.

"The evidence is clear. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke," said Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization. Governments should immediately pass laws "requiring all indoor workplaces and public places to be 100 percent smoke-free," she said.

Tobacco use is the world's leading cause of preventable death, accounting for 10 percent of adult fatalities, according to the WHO. It is responsible for 5.4 million deaths each year, a figure that is expected to rise to 8.3 million by 2030.

Increasing numbers of nonsmokers will also die unless governments take action, the WHO said in its 50-page report.

It said governments of both rich and poor countries should declare all public indoor places smoke-free, by passing laws and actively enforcing measures to ensure that "everyone has a right to breathe clean air, free from tobacco smoke."

"This is not about shaming the smoker. This is not even about banning smoking," said Dr. Armando Peruga, who heads the WHO's anti-tobacco campaign. "This is about society taking decisions about where to smoke and where not to smoke."

At least 200,000 workers die each year because of exposure to smoke at their offices and factories, according to the UN labor agency.