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Monday, November 15, 2010

‘Tobacco-induced death on the rise worldwide’

Lead ImageDeaths from diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDs and malaria are declining while those induced by tobacco consumption are on the increase.
This was disclosed at the weekend by Thomas Frieden, director of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, USA, while delivering a lecture at the 41st Union World Conference on Lung Health in Berlin, Germany. He said this trend could be reversed if governments across the world take actions to stem the tide. Among the steps he recommended were the imposition of heavy tax on cigarettes, adherence to and the implementation of steps laid out in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The Framework is the first health treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO). It was adopted by the World Health Assembly seven years ago and entered into force in 2005. It has since become one of the most widely embraced treaties in UN history with about 171 parties. Mr Frieden said it is unfortunate that tobacco has wreaked so much havoc on the human race when death and illness from it could be curbed. He advised governments to impose yearly heavy taxes on tobacco industries as a way of making the commodity expensive and out of the reach of the people.
According to the WHO, tobacco is the leading cause of death, illness and impoverishment, adding that its “use is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. It kills more than five million people a year - an average of one person every six seconds - and accounts for one in 10 adult deaths. Up to half of current users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease.” Mr Frieden said all efforts must be made to reverse this dreadful trend.
Also speaking at another event at the conference, Nils Billo, Executive Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) made a case for more money to be invested in the fight against tuberculosis (TB) so as to curb the drug-resistant epidemic of the disease. He observed that there are increasing reports that TB drugs are going out of stocks in several countries and this could lead to a drug-resistant epidemic.
Poor man’s burden
Anthony Harris, an advisor at The Union said poverty and malnutrition have strong links to TB and that the poor are usually at greater risks. Lee Reichman, a professor of medicine at the New Jersey Medical School of Global Tuberculosis Institute, who described TB as “forgotten but not gone” disease said the it could be eliminated because its cause was known. According to him, “More people died from TB last year than any year in history.” Mr Harris added that in the last 10 years there have been 300 million infections, 90 million cases and over 30 million deaths. He regretted that TB kills about 1.7million people per year yet not much attention was being paid to it compared to SARS which killed 813, Avian influenza (6250), anthrax (5) and small pox which killed no one.
He also said the cure for TB has remained a sort of mirage due to economic considerations because it is not a disease that fetches big money.
“Nobody seems to care. This wouldn’t be tolerated for any other disease. Why does TB still infect one-third of the world’s population and remain a global threat despite the fact that highly cost-effective drugs are available to eradicate it?,” he said.
The ongoing Union World Conference is the largest annual conference focusing on lung health issues as they affect low and middle-income countries. It is organised each year by the Paris-based International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. Some 2,500 delegates from more than 100 countries are attending.