Asthma

Updated 11 January 2017

Tobacco causes 6 million deaths worldwide each year

Recent studies prove that we are losing the battle against tobacco, but according to the WHO higher prices and taxes could be the solution.

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Smoking kills about 6 million people a year, and costs the world more than $1 trillion a year in health care expenses and lost productivity, a new report says.

Huge economic impact

But, billions of dollars and millions of lives could be saved through higher tobacco prices and taxes, according to the report from the World Health Organisation and the US National Cancer Institute.

Besides reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease, such tobacco-control policies could raise large amounts of money for governments to use for health and economic development, the study authors said.

Read: Just 1 cigarette a day can be deadly

"The economic impact of tobacco on countries, and the general public, is huge, as this new report shows," said Dr Oleg Chestnov. He is the WHO's assistant director-general for noncommunicable diseases and mental health.

"The tobacco industry produces and markets products that kill millions of people prematurely, rob households of finances that could have been used for food and education, and impose immense health care costs on families, communities and countries," Chestnov said in a WHO news release.

Annual tax revenues from cigarettes globally could increase by 47 percent, or $140 billion, if all countries raised excise taxes by about 80 cents per pack, according to the report.

The report authors predicted this would raise cigarette retail prices an average of 42 percent, leading to a nine percent decline in smoking rates and up to 66 million fewer adult smokers.

Evidence-based tobacco control interventions

Poorer countries suffer the greatest burden from tobacco use. There are 1.1 billion smokers age 15 or older worldwide, and eight out of 10 of them are in low- and middle-income countries, the report noted.

The research summarised in this report "confirms that evidence-based tobacco control interventions make sense from an economic as well as a public health standpoint", said report co-editor Frank Chaloupka, professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Read: Lighting up in SA

The 700-page report dispelled tobacco industry claims that tobacco-control measures cause economic harm, said Dr Douglas Bettcher of the WHO.

"This report shows how lives can be saved and economies can prosper when governments implement cost-effective, proven measures, like significantly increasing taxes and prices on tobacco products, and banning tobacco marketing and smoking in public," said Bettcher, the WHO's director for the prevention of noncommunicable diseases.

Progress being made

Tobacco is a major cause of noncommunicable diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Such preventable diseases account for about 16 million premature deaths (before age 70) worldwide every year, Bettcher and his colleagues said.

Reducing tobacco is a major part of efforts to lower premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases by one-third by 2030.

"Progress is being made in controlling the global tobacco epidemic, but concerted efforts are needed to ensure progress is maintained or accelerated," the report said. "Increasing tobacco use in some regions, and the potential for increase in others, threatens to undermine global progress in tobacco control."

Read More: 

Smoking bans help fight asthma in children

Research quantifies genetic damage caused by smoking

It's never too late to stop smoking

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Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

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