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Tobacco Use Kills 6 Million People Annually: Report

And costs the global economy $500 billion each year

TUESDAY, Aug. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Tobacco use kills an estimated six million people worldwide each year and drains $500 billion annually from the global economy in lost productivity, misused resources, and premature deaths.

That assessment comes from The Tobacco Atlas, Third Edition, published by the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation and released Tuesday at the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Summit in Dublin, Ireland.

What's more, illnesses and deaths from tobacco use are totally preventable through such "well-established public policies" as tobacco taxes, advertising bans, smoke-free public places, and health warnings on packages, the report said.

By 2015, an estimated 2.1 million cancer deaths annually will be caused by tobacco products. And by 2030, most of these deaths -- 83 percent -- will occur in poor and middle-income countries, the atlas reported.

In developing countries, smokers spend disproportionate sums of their income on tobacco products, money that could otherwise be spent on food, health care, and other necessities. And because 25 percent of smokers die and many more become ill during their most productive years, that loss of income wreaks havoc on families and communities, the report said.

The atlas also pointed to what it called an "undeniable trend" -- the tobacco industry has shifted its marketing and sales efforts to less-developed countries that have less effective public health policies and fewer tobacco-control resources.

In 2010, an estimated 72 percent of people who will die from tobacco-related illnesses will be from low- and middle-income countries. Since 1960, tobacco production worldwide has increased three-fold in low- and middle-income countries, while getting cut in half in wealthier nations, the report said.

Using Bangladesh as an example, the report said that if the average household bought food with the money spent on tobacco, more than 10 million people would no longer suffer from malnutrition and 350 children less than 5 years old could be saved each day.

The report also said that tobacco replaces potential food production on almost 4 million hectares [a hectare is 2.47 acres] of the world's agricultural land -- the equivalent of all the planet's orange groves or banana plantations.

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

"The Tobacco Atlas is crucial to helping advocates in every nation get the knowledge they need to combat the most preventable global health epidemic," John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, said in the release. "It is especially appropriate to present the atlas here in Ireland, where so much progress has already been made against the scourge of tobacco. By utilizing this information to develop public health strategies to reduce tobacco use and help people stay well, we will save millions of lives."

More information

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SOURCE: Aug. 25, 2009, news release, World Lung Foundation, New York City

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