WHO says these industries kill 2.7 million a year in Europe

WHO says these industries kill 2.7 million a year in Europe
WHO says these industries kill 2.7 million a year in Europe

Tobacco, ultra-processed foods, alcohol and fossil fuels are responsible for causing millions of deaths in Europe every year, says the WHO. It called on governments to enforce stronger health regulation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday blamed alcohol, tobacco, ultra-processed foods (UPFs) and fossil fuels for causing 2.7 million deaths a year in Europe.  

In a report, titled “Commercial determinants of noncommunicable diseases in the WHO European Region,” the global health body called for “strict regulation to curb industry power” and promote public health.

These “four industries kill at least 7,000 people in our region every day,” Hans Kluge, the director of the WHO Europe region, said in a statement.

Obstructing public health policies for profit?

Overall, the WHO said, 1.15 million deaths per year in Europe are caused by smoking, 426,857 by alcohol, 117,290 by diets high in processed meats and 252,187 by diets high in salt.

These figures do not even include deaths caused by obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar or high cholesterol level — all of which are linked to unhealthy diets, it said.

The UN agency accused these four industries of obstructing public policies that could hit their profits, noting that industry tactics included targeted marketing strategies, disinformation, promotions on social media and “subverting science” such as funding research that promotes their goals.

“These tactics threaten public health gains of the past century and prevent countries from reaching their health targets,” the WHO said.

Industry lobbying was hampering efforts to tackle non-communicable illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, it added.

Call for stronger health regulations

The WHO underlined that the “primary interest of all major corporations is profit,” while having a large market share “often also translates into political power.”

Almost 60% of adults and a third of children in Europe are overweight or obese, according to the WHO.

The most recent data, from 2017, showed that one death in five attributed to cardiovascular disease and cancer in Europe was the result of unhealthy eating habits.

The WHO urged countries to fight back by enforcing stronger regulations on the marketing of unhealthy products, monopolistic practices and lobbying.

“People must take precedence before profit, always,” Kluge said.

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