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News: December 9, 2009

Smoking Kills Millions Worldwide Every Year

December 9, 2009

Tobacco use kills at least 5 million people every year, a figure that could rise if countries don't take stronger measures to combat smoking, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
In a new report on tobacco use and control, the U.N. agency said nearly 95 percent of the global population is unprotected by laws banning smoking. WHO said secondhand smoking kills about 600,000 people every year.
The report describes countries' various strategies to curb smoking, including protecting people from smoke, enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, and raising taxes on tobacco products. Those were included in a package of six strategies WHO unveiled last year, but less than 10 percent of the world's population is covered by any single measure.
"People need more than to be told that tobacco is bad for human health," said Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO's Tobacco-Free Initiative. "They need their governments to implement the WHO Framework Convention."
Most of WHO's anti-tobacco efforts are centered on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international treaty ratified by nearly 170 countries in 2003. The convention theoretically obliges countries to take action to reduce tobacco use, though it is unclear if they can be punished for not taking adequate measures, since they can simply withdraw from the treaty.
Other experts questioned how effective WHO's strategies were.
"It's like the well-intentioned blind leading the blind," said Patrick Basham, director of the Democracy Institute, a London and Washington-based think tank. He said WHO's policies were based more on hope than evidence.
Basham said measures like increasing taxes on tobacco products and banning advertising don't address the root causes of why people smoke. Smoking levels naturally drop off " as they have in Western countries " when populations become richer and better-educated.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and WHO estimates that, unless countries take drastic action, tobacco could kill about 8 million people every year by 2030, mostly in developing countries.
Basham said officials should focus on anti-poverty measures to stem the smoking problem, though that is beyond WHO's mandate as a health agency.
"The cynical view is that the anti-tobacco lobby has itself now become an industry and we will never be able to do enough to stop smoking," Basham said. "Tobacco use will change, but it has very little to do with the kinds of things WHO is promoting."


Archive issues: (50)

Archive list: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 [13] 14 15 16 17

November 8, 2009 | American Diabetes Association Launches Campaign to "Stop Diabetes"

How much do you know about diabetes? Many Americans do not know much about this disease that strikes someone every 20 seconds in the United States. That is one reason why the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has ...

November 7, 2009 | Strong Immune Response by Healthy Pregnant Women to H1N1 Vaccine

An ongoing clinical trial finds that healthy pregnant women have a strong immune response after receiving just one dose of H1N1 influenza vaccine. The trial, which began on September 9, is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health.  Both the Centers for ...

November 6, 2009 | Salt and diet soda can both take a toll on kidneys

Research from Brigham and Women's Hospital shows that salt and diet soda can take a toll on our kidneys. Consuming a high salt diet and artificially sweetened drinks was linked to greater kidney function declines over an eleven year period.  Women participating in the Nurses' Health Study were examined to find the association between diet soda and salt on kidney function ...

Archive list: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 [13] 14 15 16 17

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