While tobacco-related deaths have almost tripled in the past decade, killing about 50 million people in the last ten years including 6 million people last year, tobacco production has increased by nearly 17 percent in the last decade, the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation reported on Wednesday.
In a report, marking the tenth anniversary of its first Tobacco Atlas, the WLF and the American Cancer Society estimate that if the current trends continue, a billion people will die from tobacco use and exposure this century, killing one person every six seconds.
Tobacco is responsible for more than 15 percent of all male deaths and 7 percent of female deaths, the new Tobacco Atlas report found, and was the top cause of death in China, the world’s biggest cigarette market.
Tobacco kills about 1.2 million people in China a year, and the report estimates that by 2030, 3.5 million people in China will die of tobacco use.
While smoking rates in the developed world have been declining, the rate is growing in poorer countries. Nearly 80 percent of those who die from tobacco use are in low and middle income countries, and in 2009 six of the top ten tobacco producing countries had malnourishment rates between five and 27 percent.
"If we don't act, the projections for the future are even more morbid. And the burden of death caused by tobacco is increasingly one of the developing world, particularly Asia, the Middle East and Africa," Michael Eriksen, one of the report's authors and director of the Institute of Public Health at Georgia State University, told Reuters in an interview.
Tobacco is responsible the greatest percentage of male deaths in Turkey, about 38 percent of all male deaths is from smoking-related illnesses, and smoking remains the biggest killer of American women, at about 23 percent of all female deaths.
“The tobacco industry thrives on ignorance of the true harms of tobacco use and using misinformation to subvert health policies that could save millions,” said Peter Baldini, chief executive officer, World Lung Foundation in a statement.
What’s more, big tobacco firms are undermining public efforts that could save millions by increasing their efforts to combat tobacco reduction efforts by launching legal challenges in every region of the world trying to delay or stop plain packaging, smoke-free legislation, advertising bans and graphic pack warnings, according to the health agencies.
The world's six biggest tobacco firms made $35.1 billion in profits in 2010, equivalent to combined the earnings of Coca-Cola, Microsoft and McDonald's, according to the report.
Smoking can lead to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, which accout for more than 63 percent of deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
More than 170 countries have registered to a World Health Organization-led convention requiring them to cut smoking rates, limit exposure to second-hand smoke and reducing tobacco advertising and promotion.
The Fourth Edition of The Tobacco Atlas was launched on March 21, 2012, at the World Conference on Tobacco OR Health in Singapore, and consists of information on tobacco and tobacco control.
Margaret Chan, WHO director general, said that 1.1 billion people have in the last twenty years become covered by at least one measure designed to curb tobacco use, but the battle was not over and urged more countries to fight the industry.
"We must never allow the tobacco industry to get the upper hand," she said in a foreword to the report. "Tobacco is a killer. It should not be advertised, subsidized or glamorized."