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Tobacco Claims 6 Million Lives Each Year

August 25, 2009

Tobacco use claims the lives of about 6 million people each year and requires about $500 billion annually, according to a new report.

Issued at the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Summit on Tuesday, the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation’s newest Tobacco Atlas found that more than a third of those that die would be linked to cancer.

Authors estimate that by 2015, 2.1 million cancer deaths each year will be due to tobacco use.

By 2030, 83 percent of these deaths will occur in low and middle-income countries.

Other health issues arise from tobacco use, including heart disease and emphysema, authors of the report said.

Additionally, tobacco use has a costly impact on the global economy.

“Tobacco’s total economic costs reduce national wealth in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as 3.6 percent,” according to the Tobacco Atlas.

“Tobacco accounts for one out of every 10 deaths worldwide and will claim 5.5 million lives this year alone.”

The economic loss is linked to an estimated 25 percent of smokers who die or become sick during their most productive years, which results in income losses for households.

Additionally, researchers found that tobacco replaces potential food production on almost 4 million hectares of the world’s agricultural land, equal to all of the world’s orange groves or banana plantations.

In order to fight the epidemic, authors of the report recommend that sweeping public policy approaches be taken, including tobacco taxes, advertising bans, smoke-free public places, and effective health warnings on packages.

“These cost-effective policies are among those included in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global treaty endorsed by more than 160 countries, and recommended by the World Health Organization MPOWER policy package,” authors noted.

“The Tobacco Atlas presents compelling evidence that the health burden is shifting from richer countries to their lower-resource counterparts,” said Peter Baldini, chief executive officer, World Lung Foundation.

“This evidence clearly articulates the breathtaking scope and dimensions of the problem. It calls out to be used actively in strengthening the case for policy change.”

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