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Report Says Tobacco Kills 6 Million a Year: What Is Being Done to Reduce Use?

August 27, 2009 07:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The latest edition of the Tobacco Atlas estimates that 6 million people a year die from tobacco-related illnesses, emphasizing the importance of anti-tobacco measures in the U.S. and around the world.

Tobacco Atlas Released

An estimated 6 million people worldwide die from tobacco-related illnesses each year, according to the Tobacco Atlas, Third Edition, a report released Tuesday by the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation at the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Summit. The number is up from 5 million estimated by the Tobacco Atlas, Second Edition, released in 2006.

Tobacco disproportionately affects the low and middle-income classes, who will represent 72 percent of tobacco-related deaths by 2010, the report estimates. While tobacco use has declined in high-resource countries over the last 50 years, it has tripled in low-resource countries.

The report also found that tobacco use costs the global economy roughly $500 billion a year in heath care costs, lost productivity, missed taxation, premature death and environmental damage.

Global Anti-Smoking Efforts

The report states that tobacco use can be curbed “only through concerted, comprehensive and sustained governmental and community action.” It presents many recommendations to government, including tobacco taxes, advertising bans, health warnings and public health campaigns.

Many of the recommendations are derived from past global anti-smoking measures, including the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a 2003 treaty endorsed and ratified by 166 countries. The United States has endorsed, but not ratified the treaty.

Last year, the WHO developed the MPOWER strategy, which provides six measures for governments to follow:
  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies
  • Protect people from tobacco smoke
  • Offer help to quit tobacco use
  • Warn about the dangers of tobacco
  • Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship
  • Raise taxes on tobacco

U.S. Anti-Smoking Legislation

In February, President Obama signed the largest-ever federal tobacco tax increase into law. The legislation, which took effect in April, raised the federal tax on a pack of cigarettes from 39 cents a pack to $1.01. According to USA Today, one industry analyst predicted the tax increase would cause a 9 percent drop in cigarette consumption.

In June, Obama signed the strictest anti-tobacco law to date in the U.S., the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. It gives the FDA greater authority to regulate the ingredients in tobacco products, severely restricts marketing campaigns, and calls for more explicit warnings. Last week, the FDA opened its new center to enforce the law’s provisions.

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