Tobacco-related deaths are expected to double to 10 million a year by 2030, with most fatalities in developing countries, a senior World Lung Foundation (WLF) official said on Friday.
Judith Longstaff Mackay, the organisation's global tobacco control programme coordinator, said while cigarette markets were getting smaller in advanced economies, the opposite was true for developing states, where the number of smokers and the volume each consumes is growing.
"I think it's important not to get into competitive deaths, but there's about 3 million TB deaths a year, whereas there are 5 million deaths a year from tobacco and these are going up," Mackay told Reuters in an interview.
Developing countries hit hardest
"By 2030 that 5 million will be closer to 10 million, they'll be doubling ... and the major burden is on developing countries," she said on the sidelines of an international lung health conference.
The foundation works with groups such as the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote lung health. Mackay is a senior policy adviser to the WHO and a critic of cigarette industry policies.
Cigarette smoking is a major cause of cancer of the lung, throat, bladder and other serious medical conditions.
Despite scientific proof of health risks associated with smoking, Mackay said more people were lighting up worldwide, with an estimated 1.64 billion smokers expected by 2030, from 1.3 billion today.
The global tobacco trade is estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars each year, with China and the United States the world's two largest cigarette manufacturers, according to the American Cancer Society.
A ticking time bomb
It describes China as a "ticking time bomb" with approximately 320 million smokers while it says smoking is responsible for nearly one in five deaths in the United States.
According to the 2006 edition of The Tobacco Atlas, published by the American Cancer Society, the four countries with the highest number of male smokers - who make up the majority of the world's smokers - were Yemen, Djibouti, Cambodia and China.
"Particularly in Asia there is greater spending power, greater financial success, so that people can buy more cigarettes," Mackay said.
Mackay said developing countries were making progress by implementing some bans on public smoking and tobacco advertising. – (Reuters Health)
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