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no smoke without fire

Big Tobacco made €7,900 for every dead smoker in 2015, according to a new report

The latest edition of the Tobacco Atlas says that the industry is maximising profits by targeting the ‘vulnerable’ in places like Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

shutterstock_187473707 Shutterstock / NeydtStock Shutterstock / NeydtStock / NeydtStock

THE LATEST EDITION of the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) ‘Tobacco Atlas’ says that the tobacco industry is increasingly targeting vulnerable populations in the poorest parts of the world.

The sixth edition of the Atlas, co-authored by the ACS and Vital Strategies and launched yesterday at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town, shows that, while progress has been made in controlling the spread of tobacco use, inroads are being made by the industry in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

In 2016, some 7.1 million deaths worldwide were attributable to tobacco use, the vast majority of them male.

Meanwhile, the combined profits of tobacco companies in 2015 totalled $62.3 billion (€50.6 billion) – or  €7,900 for each dead smoker.

“The ultimate path to improved tobacco control is political will,” says José Luis Castro, president and chief executive of Vital Strategies.

“Strong tobacco control policies deliver a significant return on investment, and the Tobacco Atlas offers the best and most recent data on the tobacco epidemic as a resource for governments to pursue effective strategies.”

More than 1.1 billion people worldwide are current smokers, with 360 million people using smokeless tobacco.

Low and middle income countries represent over 80% of tobacco users and tobacco-related deaths at present, according to the Atlas.

‘Deliberately targets’

The new report says that the industry deliberately targets countries that lack tobacco control laws and exploits governments, farmers and vulnerable populations across Africa, for example.

In sub-Saharan Africa alone, for example, consumption of cigarettes has increased by 52% since 1980.

This is being driven by population growth and those areas and aggressive marketing by the companies in countries like Lesotho, where usage of tobacco products increased from 15% of the population to 54% in just 11 years since 2004.

In countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Senegal smoking is now more prevalent among the youth than adults.

However, it isn’t all bad news that’s contained in the report.

Certain other areas of Africa, such as Ghana and Madagascar, have introduced comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising.

Global cigarette consumption and tobacco use have declined in recent years due to “adoption of proven and innovative tobacco control measures”, according to the ACS.

Tobacco taxes alone, with which Irish smokers are well familiar, are predicted to deliver a reduction in the prevalence of smoking by as much as 30% in the next seven years – equivalent to saving 38 million lives.

Turkey’s comprehensive tobacco control strategy, for example, has reduced smoking prevalence among its population from 39.3% in 2000 to 25.9% in 2015.

“The answer does not lie with the industry: as the Atlas makes clear, there is a complete disconnect between the tobacco industry’s claims about harm reduction and its actual work to grow tobacco use among vulnerable populations,” says Castro.

Governments must be accountable to their citizens in reducing tobacco use and improving health.

Read: Nurse alone in remote health clinic sensed he was having heart attack and saved his own life

Read: Donald Tusk says every EU leader ‘wants to protect peace process and avoid hard border’

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