Forty three trillion. That’s the number of cigarettes smoked during the past decade according to the new edition of The Tobacco Atlas unveiled today in Singapore at the World Conference on Tobacco OR Health.
The world’s leading experts on tobacco control, including a delegation from the American Cancer Society, are attending the conference and calling for action in ending the tobacco epidemic that reportedly causes one person to die every six seconds.
Michael Eriksen, lead author of The Tobacco Atlas, estimates one billion adults use tobacco products around the world. In the decade since the first atlas was published, Eriksen says almost 50 million additional adults have died from using tobacco. Eriksen reports progress in developed countries where smoking rates are going down however rates are increasing in low and middle income countries. He says “those countries are the least able to deal with the aftermath of a lifetime of tobacco use.”
Eriksen blames smoking rate increases on the tobacco industry. The Tobacco Atlas estimates the six leading tobacco companies made more than 35-billion dollars in profits in 2010. That’s more than the gross domestic product of some countries. “The tobacco industry is very good at what it does,” explains Eriksen, “it markets, it influences policy, it discourages tobacco control efforts and it makes smoking attractive and affordable.”
Hana Ross, a co-author of The Tobacco Atlas, says the industry is branching out and expanding its markets through the sales of smokeless tobacco products. That has resulted in a 60 percent increase in the past decade of alternative nicotine delivery systems such as snuff, snus, orbs and lozenges.
Eriksen says reducing tobacco use worldwide will be challenging unless governments put into place proven strategies including restricting marketing and access and increasing the price of tobacco.
“We know what to do,” he says, “we just need to take the proven steps and have the courage to treat tobacco commensurate with the harm it causes.”