Tobacco Atlas highlights global devastation

In collaboration with the Press Association

The latest issue of the Tobacco Atlas reveals the toll of smoking around the world, highlighting the impact tobacco has on both health and economies.

Published by the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society, the third edition of the Tobacco Atlas claims that tobacco will claim six million lives in 2010, 72 per cent of which will be in low and middle-income countries.

More than 80 per cent of deaths in low- and middle-resource countries are linked to tobacco use, according to the report, which is also available online at TobaccoAtlas.org.

- Sarah Woolnough, head of policy, Cancer Research UK

Families and communities are greatly affected by income loss as 25 per cent of smokers die during their most productive years, while many more are plagued by illness.

The Tobacco Atlas also points out that entire economies are affected as a result of premature death, lost productivity, misused resources and ineffective taxation, and its authors estimate that tobacco drains $500 billion from the global economy each year.

They claim that governments are missing an opportunity to prevent people from taking up smoking by not tackling the illegal movement of cigarettes, which are the most widely smuggled legal consumer product in the world.

The Tobacco Atlas also notes that the tobacco industry has shifted its focus away from countries with effective public health policies towards nations with ineffective policies and fewer resources.

One example is Bangladesh, where more than ten million people would be spared malnutrition if the average household spent the money it currently spends on tobacco on food.

Dr John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, said that the publication is "crucial" to understanding the nature of tobacco-related ill health, describing this as "the most preventable global health epidemic".

"This single resource can help advocates in every nation get the knowledge they need to combat the scourge of tobacco in their communities and on the worldwide stage," he claimed.

"By utilising the information in the Tobacco Atlas to develop public health strategies to reduce tobacco use and help people stay well, we will save millions of lives."

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK head of policy, said: "This report highlights the catastrophic impact that tobacco consumption has in every corner of the globe. The fact that the burden of death from tobacco is shifting to poorer countries shows how the tobacco industry works to exploit lax regulation and push their products to the most vulnerable in society.

"With half of all long-term smokers dying from their addiction, this is no time to be complacent. Cancer Research UK is continuing to support policies that restrict the marketing of cigarettes and help people to quit both in this country and abroad."