Currently, smoking claims 6 million lives annually - mostly in low-income countries. According to the World Health Organization, that will reach 8 million in little over a decade Photo Courtesy:- (iStock)

Cigarette smoking kills about 6 million people a year and smoking costs the global economy more than $1 trillion a year in health care expenses and lost productivity, a new report says. According to the study from the US National Cancer Institute and the World Health Organisation, billions of dollars and millions of lives could be saved through higher tobacco prices and taxes. Tobacco-related illnesses will claim 8 million deaths per year by 2030, up from the current 6 million (mostly in low-income countries), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US National Cancer Institute warned on Tuesday.

A high school student looks at a mock up of plain cigarette packaging before the start of a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 31, 2016.  Photo Courtesy:- (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Smoking (Tobacco use) is a major cause of non-communicable 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”, Dr. Douglas Bettcher (WHO’s director for the prevention of non-communicable diseases) and his colleagues said. Reducing tobacco is a major part of efforts to lower premature deaths from non-communicable diseases by one-third by 2030.

A high school student looks at a mock up of plain cigarette packaging before the start of a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 31, 2016.  Photo Courtesy:- (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Besides reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer, such tobacco-control policies could raise large amounts of money for governments to curb smoking and reduce their health-care costs and economic development, the study authors said. The new report compiled by 70 public health experts show global rates of smokers are rising, meaning that figure will likely jump to 8 million in little over a decade. And WHO estimated the cost of tobacco deaths ($1 trillion a year/ that’s 12 zeros) far outweighs global revenues from tobacco taxes ($269 billion in 2013-2014).

In addition, the report concluded “the number of tobacco-related deaths is projected to increase from about 6 million deaths annually to about 8 million annually by 2030, with more than 80% of these occurring in LMICs (low- and middle-income countries).” The study said.

Impoverished countries suffer the greatest load from tobacco use. There are 1.1 billion people lighting up age 15 or older worldwide, and 8 out of 10 of them are in low- and middle-income countries, which is where 80% of smokers live in such countries and that percentage of projected smoking deaths will occur in the coming years. Tobacco use (smoking) is the single largest preventable cause of death globally, Health experts say.

Cigarette packs are seen on shelves in a tobacco shop in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, September 8, 2015. France’s tobacconists are protesting plans to force cigarette companies to use plain, unbranded packaging, as part of anti-smoking legislation.  Photo Courtesy:-(REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)

The 688-page report, peer-reviewed by more than 70 scientific experts predicted the economic costs of smoking (Tobacco use) are expected to continue to rise further. And nothing that although governments have the tools (effective and inexpensive policies such as hiking tobacco taxes and prices, complete bans on tobacco company marketing, comprehensive smoke-free policies and prominent pictorial label warnings) to lower tobacco use and associated deaths, many have fallen far short of using those policies practically. The report added that tobacco taxes could be used to fund more expensive interventions, such as anti-tobacco mass media campaigns and support for “breathing-space” services and treatments.

“This 688- page report shows how lives can be saved and economic status 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 Dr. Douglas Bettcher of WHO.

High school students look at a mock up of plain cigarette packaging before the start of a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 31, 2016.  Photo Courtesy:-(REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Tobacco containment meanwhile is reaching a crunch point due to a trade controversy brought by Indonesia, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Honduras against Australia’s stringent “plain packaging” laws, which enact deliberated designs on tobacco products and ban specific logos and colourful branding.

The WTO (World Trade Organisation) is expected to rule on the complaint this year. Australia’s policy is being closely watched by other countries that are considering similar policies, including Canada, Norway, Singapore, Slovenia, Belgium and South Africa, the study said.

“Government fears that tobacco control will have an adverse economic impact are not justified by the evidence. The science is clear; the time for action is now.”


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