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Smoking continues to kill

Despite efforts to contain the use of tobacco, consumption is increasing as the world population grows, placing further strain on already overburdened health systems in developing countries – it was stated in Dublin, 26 August 2009. Launching the third edition of The Tobacco Atlas at the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Summit in the Irish capital, lead author Dr Judith Mackay painted a gloomy picture showing that one in three people in the world are still smoking, one in two children are exposed to passive smoking and that one in two smokers will die in their middle ages.

Dr John Seffrin, Chief Executive Officer of the American Cancer Society, publishers of the atlas, revealed that in the 20th century “the tobacco industry and their products killed 100-million people”. If current interventions fail, this figure is projected to be one billion people during this century. An increasing proportion of deaths will occur in lower and middle income countries. The atlas maps the history, documents the current situation and predicts the future of the current epidemic.

Dr Hana Ross, economist at the American Cancer Society said that the tobacco industry was one of the only industries that emerged from the economic meltdown unscathed. Their revenue is estimated to be around U$400-billion per year. “If you combine the revenue of the big tobacco companies it would be equal to the GDP of countries such as Norway or Saudi Arabia,” said Ross. Tobacco products have also been found to become increasingly affordable as the world population’s income grows. “Increasing taxes and ploughing it back into tobacco control is the best weapon we have,” said Ross.

Tobacco farmers and children exploited

Big tobacco often puts forward the so-called plight of the tobacco farmers as a reason not to curb the tobacco industry, however Ross said the picture at community level differed vastly. She said tobacco farmers “suffered” and that the industry made use of child labour. “The farmers are the ones most exploited, they get the least money and are often in debt. They would like to switch to other crops and we are trying to assist them, however the demand for tobacco leaves is growing and it is a cash crop,” she said.

Tobacco is the only product that harms every person exposed to it and kills half of its regular users.

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