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WHO Issues 'Tobacco Atlas' Reviewing Global Smoking Habits - 2002-10-15

The World Health Organization has released a "Tobacco Atlas" that presents a visual view of a habit that claims the lives of more than 13,000 people every day around the world.

Officials at the World Health Organization have high hopes for the "Tobacco Atlas." They describe it as the first of its kind in the health field, and say it will give ordinary people and policymakers an idea of the toll tobacco is taking on millions worldwide.

Using colorful maps and graphics, the atlas shows the damage caused by tobacco, from its effects on individual health to what countries have to pay to fight tobacco smuggling.

Judith Mackay, the author of the atlas, says it is in developing countries, especially those in Asia, that tobacco is doing the most damage.

"There is no doubt that it is the large-population Asian countries that will bear the brunt of the epidemic," she said. "In fact, these countries are beginning to feel it already. There is about three-quarters of a million deaths a year in China just from tobacco. And it will get much worse."

Dr. Mackay says policymakers should find the atlas helpful as they try to formulate regulations on tobacco control during negotiations currently under way in Geneva on a tobacco treaty.

The treaty is expected to be adopted by the World Health Organization's 192-member states by May of next year. The organization favors several steps in its battle against tobacco, including a ban on advertisements for smoking and stiff tax increases on tobacco.

The World Health Organization says if control measures are not put in place, it expects tobacco to kill an estimated 8.5 million people a year by 2020.