NEW YORK - Tobacco use killed 100 million people worldwide in the 20th
century and could kill a billion more in the 21st unless governments take
action, the World Health Organization said Thursday.
Governments around the world collect more than $200 billion in tobacco taxes
every year, but spend less than one fifth of one per cent of that revenue on
tobacco control, the WHO said.
"We hold in our hands the solution to the global tobacco epidemic that threatens
the lives of one billion men, women and children during this century," WHO
Director General Dr. Margaret Chan said in an introduction to the report.
The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008 calls on all countries to
dramatically increase efforts to prevent young people from beginning to smoke,
help smokers quit, and protect non-smokers from exposure to second-hand smoke.
It urges governments to adopt six "tobacco control policies" - raise taxes and
prices of tobacco; ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; protect
people from second-hand smoke; warn people about the dangers of tobacco; help
those who want to quit smoking, and monitor tobacco use to understand and
reverse the epidemic.
"The tobacco epidemic already kills 5.4 million people a year from lung cancer,
heart disease and other illnesses," Chan said. "Unchecked, that number will
increase to more than eight million a year by 2030."
Chan was launching the report with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose
foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, helped fund it.
According to the report, nearly two thirds of the world's smokers live in 10
countries - China, which accounts for nearly 30 per cent, India for about 10 per
cent, Indonesia, Russia, the United States, Japan, Brazil, Bangladesh, Germany
It forecast that more than 80 per cent of tobacco-related deaths will be in
low-and middle-income countries by 2030.
Tobacco use is growing fastest in low-income countries, the report said, "due to
steady population growth coupled with tobacco industry targeting, ensuring that
millions of people become fatally addicted each year."
While standard cigarettes are most common, WHO said other types of smoked
tobacco are also "lethal," including small hand-rolled cigarettes called bidis
which are smoked in India and other Southeast Asian countries, clove and tobacco
cigarettes called Kreteks smoked in Indonesia, and tobacco cured with
flavourings known as shisha smoked from water pipes.
It warned that "the shift of the tobacco epidemic to the developing world will
lead to unprecedented levels of disease and early death in countries where
population growth and the potential for increased tobacco use are highest and
where health care services are least available."
"In the 20th century, the tobacco epidemic killed 100 million people worldwide,"
the report said.
"Unless urgent action is taken, more than one billion people could be killed by
tobacco during this century."
WHO called the rise in tobacco use by younger women "one of the most ominous
potential developments of the epidemic's growth."
Only 86 of 193 countries surveyed have recent data on tobacco use for both
adults and youths. Seventy-four countries still allow smoking in health care
institutions and about the same number allow smoking in schools.
More than half the countries, with two-thirds of the world's population, allow
smoking in government offices and workplaces, the report said.
Only two countries - Uruguay and New Zealand - had both comprehensive smoke-free
laws and high enforcement, it said.
For the tobacco industry to survive, and keep existing customers hooked and
attract new customers, "it spends tens of billions of dollars a year on
advertising, promotion and sponsorship," WHO said.
One of the most effective ways to curb tobacco use is to ban all forms of
tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, but it said only 20 of 179
countries that responded to its survey have complete bans.
While many tobacco users want to quit, they are unable to because of their
addiction to nicotine, and "the vast majority of countries" provide no help, the
Only nine countries, accounting for five per cent of the world's population,
offer a full range of treatment and at least partial financial subsidies to help
people trying to quit, it said.
"Weak health warnings on tobacco packs - or no warnings at all - continue to be
the global norm," the report added, noting that only 15 of 176 countries
surveyed require picture warnings, which are most effective. Such warning are
required in Canada.
Source : The Canadian Press