Tobacco Kills 625,000 in the Americas Each Year
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - At least 625,000 individuals in the Americas die each year from tobacco use, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Tobacco use seems to be on the rise in most countries in the Americas, and the PAHO are urgi
``Smoking in the Americas, as in any developing countries, is on the increase (and) we can be sure that the amount of disease from smoking is going to go up--particularly heart disease and cancer,'' said David Brandling-Bennett, deputy director of the PAHO. The Pan American Health Organization serves as the regional office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Brandling-Bennett blames the increase in tobacco use on ``an emulation of the developed western culture, which people associate with smoking for various reasons.'' In addition, ``the tobacco industry is making a positive effort to increase smoking rates because it sees the future market as being limited--certainly in North America and probably in Europe as well. So it has got (to) seek new markets and it's doing so, unfortunately, apparently successfully,'' he said.
Efforts to counter tobacco use to-date have been ''insufficient and outdated,'' according to Heather Selin, a tobacco control advisor at PAHO. In her presentation at the recent World Conference on Tobacco OR Health, she acknowledged, however, that ``there are some hopeful signs.'' For example, governments have shown increased interest in improving tobacco legislation, and the tobacco industry has been exposed for their strategies to undermine public health efforts. In addition, PAHO is engaged in activities ``to improve surveillance and research on tobacco use and the burden of disease it causes in the Americas,'' Selin said.
``I think what needs to be done is for governments to implement the recommendations of a report of the World Bank that we released last year,'' Selin told Reuters Health. ``We know that increasing tobacco taxes is the most effective way to reduce tobacco (use). We also know that comprehensive advertising restricting--as close to a ban as countries can get--is effective. We know that restricting smoking indoors is effective. We know that consumer information such as mass media (and) strong, meaningful and visible warnings on cigarette packages are effective,'' she added.
``For people who don't smoke, don't start,'' advised Brandling-Bennett. ``For those who smoke, there is increasing evidence that we're having more success in helping people cease smoking, and it's very important that we continue to make the effort in various ways,'' he continued.
``We need to make the aids in smoking cessation, like the patches and the gums, more available to people,'' according to Brandling-Bennett. ``But most critically, we need to try and put measures into place that will discourage smoking, especially in the developing world--and that is in process now, including efforts to have a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control end up in the WHO by the year 2003,'' he stated.