Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Smoking could kill 1 billion this century: WHO

By Ed Cropley
Reuters News Service

Submitted by Ahk Elyahtseev
KNN Chicago

BANGKOK (Reuters) - One billion people will die of tobacco-related diseases this century unless governments in rich and poor countries alike get serious about preventing smoking, top World Health Organization (WHO) experts said on Monday.

"Tobacco is a defective product. It kills half of its customers," Douglas Bettcher, head of the WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative, said at the start of an international conference in Bangkok to draw up a masterplan for the world to kick the habit.

"It kills 5.4 million people per year and half of those deaths are in developing countries. That's like one jumbo jet going down every hour," he said.

With smoking rates in many developing countries on the rise, particularly among teenagers, that annual death toll would rise to 8.3 million within the next 20 years, he added.

However, if governments introduced measures such as aggressive taxation, banning cigarette advertising and making offices and public places totally tobacco-free, smoking rates could halve by 2050, he said.

"It's a completely preventable epidemic," Bettcher said, citing countries such as Singapore, Australia and Thailand where tough anti-smoking laws have helped people to quit.

"If we do that, by 2050 we can save 200 million lives." See: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070702/hl_nm/smoking_dc

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