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August 27th, 2009:

Tobacco to kill 6m next year

Reuters in Washington

Tobacco use will kill 6 million people next year from cancer, heart disease, emphysema and a range of other ills, global cancer experts predict.

The new Tobacco Atlas, from the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society, estimates that tobacco use costs the global economy US$500 billion a year in direct medical expenses, lost productivity and environmental harm.

“Tobacco’s total economic costs reduce national wealth in terms of gross domestic product by as much as 3.6 per cent,” the report, released on Tuesday, says. “Tobacco accounts for one out of every 10 deaths worldwide and will claim 5.5 million lives this year alone.”

If current trends hold, by 2020, the number will grow to an estimated  7 million and top 8 million by 2030.

Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration launched a tobacco centre to oversee cigarettes and other related products, after winning the power to do so from Congress in June. On Tuesday, it set up a committee of advisers to help guide it.

Over the past four decades, smoking rates have declined in rich countries including the United States, Britain and Japan while rising in much of the developing world, according to the non-profit research and advocacy organisations.

“One hundred million people were killed by tobacco in the 20th century,” the report says.

“Unless effective measures are implemented to prevent young people from smoking and to help current smokers quit, tobacco will kill 1 billion people in the 21st century,” it says.

China by far leads the world in cigarette production, followed by the US, Russia and Japan.

Publicly traded cigarette makers include Altria Group’s Philip Morris unit, Reynolds American’s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. Lorillard’s Lorillard Tobacco Co and Star Scientific.

Key findings

  • 1 billion men smoke: 35 per cent of men in rich countries and 50 per cent of men in developing countries.
  • About 250 million women smoke: 22 per cent of women in developed countries and 9 per cent of women in developing countries.
  • The risk of dying from lung cancer is more than 23 times higher for men who smoke than for non-smokers and 13 times higher for women smokers.
  • Tobacco kills a third to half of those who smoke.Smokers die an average of 15 years earlier than non-smokers.
  • Nearly 60 per cent of Chinese men smoke and China consumes more than 37 per cent of the world’s cigarettes.
  • Tobacco use will eventually kill 250 million of today’s teenagers and children.
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke kills 200,000 workers every year.

Is enough being done to police the smoking ban?


It is time the government admitted that its toothless no-smoking law (“We don’t have time to issue tickets for defying smoke ban, staff say,” August 25) was always just a sham intended to dupe the public into believing some action was being taken.

A toddler could see that it is not feasible for the government to enforce this law directly.

Overseas governments have recognised this by putting the burden on bar and restaurant owners: allowing patrons to smoke is treated just like any other health code violation, and owners who do so swiftly find themselves without an operating licence.

Our government is not so foolish that it could have failed to notice this obvious problem with enforcing the law.

A frank acknowledgment of duplicity by the responsible parties is therefore long past due.

I also call on the government to name the date on which this bogus law will be replaced by a real no-smoking law.

Brad Foreman, Clear Water Bay