UN weighs in on ‘To­bacco epi­demic

One bil­lion could die in 21st cen­tury

The Covington News - - Health & wellness - By Edith M. Led­erer

NEW YORK — The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion warned in a new re­port Thurs­day that the “to­bacco epi­demic” is grow­ing and could claim 1 bil­lion lives by the end of the cen­tury un­less gov­ern­ments dra­mat­i­cally step up ef­forts to curb smok­ing.

In its first com­pre­hen­sive re­port on to­bacco use in 179 coun­tries, the U.N.’s health agency said gov­ern­ments around the world col­lect more than $200 bil­lion in to­bacco taxes ev­ery year but spend less than one-fifth of 1 per­cent of that rev­enue on to­bacco con­trol, it said.

“We hold in our hands the so­lu­tion to the global to­bacco epi­demic that threat­ens the lives of 1 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 non­smok­ers 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.

Chan an­nounced the re­port Thurs­day at a news con­fer­ence with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose foun­da­tion, Bloomberg Phi­lan­thropies, helped fund it with a $2 mil­lion grant. The re­port ex­am­ines the to­bacco poli­cies of 179 coun­tries for the first time, Bloomberg said.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, nearly two-thirds of the world’s smok­ers live in 10 coun­tries: China, which ac­counts for nearly 30 per­cent, In­dia with about 10 per­cent, In­done­sia, Rus­sia, the United States, Ja­pan, Brazil, Bangladesh, Ger­many and Turkey.

It fore­cast that more than 80 per­cent of to­bacco-re­lated deaths will be in low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries by 2030.

Dr. Douglas Bettcher, di­rec­tor of WHO’s To­bacco Free Ini­tia­tive, said WHO es­ti­mates 5.4 mil­lion smok­ing-re­lated deaths a year, ris­ing to more than 8 mil­lion a year by 2030 if noth­ing is done. That adds up to 175 mil­lion be­tween 2005 and 2030. Be­yond that, he said, deaths will con­tinue to rise and sta­tis­ti­cal pro­jec­tions put the death toll at near 1 bil­lion by the end of the cen­tury.

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.”

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.”

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