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Smoking will kill 500 million

12th February 2008

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that no single country has fully implemented all measures necessary to control tobacco, predicting 500 million tobacco-related deaths among the world's current total of one billion smokers.

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In its first comprehensive analysis of global tobacco use, WHO said only 5% of the world's population live in countries which offer full protection to their citizens with any one of a series of key measures.

Such key measures are strategies which have been proven to reduce smoking rates, and include public smoke bans, raising tobacco taxes, and effective monitoring of tobacco use.

It said taxation was the single most effective strategy, but saw room for further increase in nearly all countries.

However, it also recommended that revenue from tobacco taxes be spent on sustaining the campaign against smoking and on reducing preventable deaths and the burden of disease.

In its report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, WHO outlined an approach that governments can adopt to prevent tens of millions of premature deaths by the middle of this century.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said that while efforts to combat tobacco were gaining momentum, virtually every country needed to do more, and said the strategies proposed by WHO were within the reach of rich and poor countries alike.

Currently, no country fully implements all the policies recommended in the report, and 80% of countries do not fully implement even one policy.

The WHO strongly recommends: monitoring tobacco use and implementing prevention policies; protecting people from tobacco smoke; offering help to smokers who wish to quit; warning people about the dangers of smoking, banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and raising taxes on tobacco.

The tobacco epidemic has now shifted to the developing world, where 80% of the more than eight million annual tobacco-related deaths projected by 2030 are expected to occur.

The global tobacco industry has carried out a deliberate campaign to target young people and adults in poorer countries, keeping the rates of tobacco addiction high. WHO blamed the industry for creating millions of new addictions every year, especially among young women.

WHO compiled the analysis with information from its 179 member states, and hopes the report will provide a road map for governments to help them meet their commitments under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which came into force in 2005.

WHO officials said they hoped to create an enabling environment to help current tobacco users quit, protect people from second-hand smoke and prevent young people from taking up the habit.


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