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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)

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December 08, 2009 | Tamiflu May Be Inneffective In Fighting Effects Of Flu

Washington (SmartAboutHealth) - According to a new review, the popular Tamiflu is weak when it comes to the effect it has in preventing effects of the flu, such as the development of ...

December 7, 2009 | Surprised? Black market steroids usually mislabeled

The risks of anabolic steroids - used by some athletes to build muscle mass - are by now well-documented. But it turns out, perhaps not surprisingly, that steroids bought illegally through "underground labs" and over the internet generally aren't what their labels say they are, researchers reported yesterday at the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry's annual meeting in Los ...

December 6, 2009 | Prostate Hormone Therapy May Up Heart Risks

Diabetes, heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems appear to be more common in men with prostate cancer who are treated with androgen deprivation therapy, which reduces or eliminates the male sex hormones that can promote cancer growth, a new study has found.  The finding indicates that androgen therapy is overused because its benefits have not been shown to outweigh its dangers in many cases, said Dr. Nancy L. Keating, associate professor of medicine and public ...

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