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World's poor targeted by tobacco

Thursday August 27th, 2009

The world's poorest countries are being deliberately targeted by the tobacco industry, resulting in millions of preventable deaths, it was alleged yesterday.

The latest edition of the Tobacco Atlas, published by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation, warned that by 2015 2.1 million cancer deaths a year will be attributable to tobacco and by 2030 83 per cent of these deaths will occur in low and middle-income countries.

The Tobacco Atlas, Third Edition, unveiled at the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Summit in Dublin, reveals that in developing countries, smokers spend disproportionate sums of money relative to their incomes that could otherwise be spent on food and healthcare.

It also reveals that:

  • since 1960 global tobacco production has increased three-fold in low- and middle-resource countries, while halving in high-resource countries;
  • tobacco replaces potential food production on almost four million hectares of the world?s agricultural land, equal to all of the world?s orange groves or banana plantations;
  • in Bangladesh alone, if the average household bought food with the money normally spent on tobacco, more than 10 million people would be saved from malnutrition and 350 children under age five could be saved each day.

"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."

John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, said urgent work needed to be carried out to develop health policy strategies in these poorer nations, such as Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which is endorsed by more than 160 countries, including the UK.

"By utilising this information to develop public health strategies to reduce tobacco use and help people stay well, we will save millions of lives," he added.

The Atlas adds that both Ireland and the United Kingdom are among the countries with the strongest tobacco control policies, which has helped to deliver both economic and health benefits.

Tags: Asia | Cancer | Child Health | Drug and Alcohol Abuse | North America | UK News | World Health

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