Last Thursday the World Health Organization (WHO) released its latest report on what it calls the “global tobacco epidemic.”
Funded in part by a $125 million donation from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the study analyzed data from 179 countries around the world. Shockingly, researchers found that by 2015, tobacco will likely cause 50 per cent more deaths than HIV/AIDS. Already, tobacco has caused more fatalities than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Unless dramatic action is taken, the report suggests that by 2100 the death toll from tobacco could climb to a staggering 1 billion.
Other key findings of the report include:
- Only 5% of the global population is protected by comprehensive national smoke-free legislation and 40% of countries still allow smoking in hospitals and schools;
- Only 5% of the world’s population lives in countries with comprehensive national bans on tobacco advertising and promotion;
- Just 15 countries, representing 6% of the global population, mandate pictorial warnings on tobacco packaging;
- Tobacco tax revenues are more than 4000 times greater than spending on tobacco control in middle-income countries and more than 9000 times greater in lower-income countries. High- income countries collect about 340 times more money in tobacco taxes than they spend on tobacco control.
Even more troubling are the report’s findings on the global tobacco industry itself. According to the report, major tobacco companies have implemented a new strategy of aggressively targeting young people and adults in the developing world, “ensuring millions of people become fatally addicted every year.” In particular, the report calls the industry’s targeting of young women one of the “most ominous potential developments of the epidemic’s growth.” As a result of this new approach to tobacco marketing, the report predicts that by 2030 more than 80 per cent of the eight million annual tobacco related deaths will occur in the developing world.
The report also includes six methods, called MPOWER strategies, for combating tobacco addiction rates. To fund these methods the report urges governments to raise taxes on tobacco products, which in itself is an effective means of reducing tobacco consumption.
Although ultimately optimistic about the potential of global efforts to halt this growing epidemic, the report nevertheless warns that without immediate, dramatic changes, literally millions of lives are at stake.
Download the full report here: http://www.who.int/tobacco/mpower/mpower_report_full_2008.pdf (7.42 MB)