Search This Blog

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tobacco use kills 6 million annually

by Joanne McCarthy

Tobacco use kills an estimated six million people a year, and costs $500 billion annually, the 2009 edition of The Tobacco Atlas has revealed.

The Tobacco Atlas, published by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation and released at the Livestrong Global Cancer Summit currently taking place in Dublin, describes Ireland as ‘among world leaders in tobacco control’.

It confirmed that Ireland and the UK are among the countries with the strongest tobacco control policies, delivering both economic and health benefits. However, it revealed that the Irish economy lost US$980 million (€686 million) in 2007 because of tobacco use.

The economic costs emerged as a result of lost productivity, misused resources, missed opportunities for taxation and premature death. Because one in four smokers die and many more become ill during their most productive years, income loss devastates families and communities, according to the Atlas.

However, Ireland has benefited from positive steps to control tobacco, the Atlas said. It has ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global treaty endorsed by more than 160 countries and recommended by the World Health Organization. The smoking ban in workplaces, tobacco tax increases, effective mass media campaigns, pictorial warnings on packages and advertising restrictions have all been of benefit. Irish people who want to quit smoking receive subsidised access to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and certain clinical cessation services, the Atlas points out.

According to The Tobacco Atlas, more than two million cancer deaths per year will be attributable to tobacco by 2015. It highlights that the danger of tobacco is preventable through public policies, such as tobacco taxes, advertising bans, smoke-free public places and effective health warnings on packages.

The Tobacco Atlas has confirmed that the tobacco industry has shifted its marketing and sales efforts to countries that have less effective public health policies and fewer tobacco control resources in place.

As a result of this, most people who die from tobacco-related illnesses are in low and middle-income countries. Since 1960, global tobacco production has increased three-fold in low and middle-resource countries while halving in high resource countries.

The three-day Livestrong Global Cancer Summit is currently taking place in the RDS in Dublin. It is bringing together more than 500 world leaders, NGOs and individual advocates to showcase commitments to cancer control. Livestrong is an initiative of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.