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Researchers Call for Tobacco-Free World by 2040

FILE - Smokers in a street in Shanghai, China.

Leading public health researchers are calling for the sale of tobacco to be phased out by 2040.

Writing in the British journal The Lancet, advocates say a tobacco-free world — where less than 5 percent of adults smoke — could be possible in less than three decades.

In a statement ahead of next week's World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi, lead author Robert Beaglehole from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said, “A world where tobacco is out of sight, out of mind, and out of fashion — yet not prohibited — is achievable in less than three decades from now, but only with full commitment from governments, international agencies such as the U.N. and WHO, and civil society.”

A spokesman for the Altria Group, which includes Philip Morris, the leading cigarette manufacturer in the U.S., declined to comment.

One billion deaths from smoking and other forms of tobacco are expected by the end of this century, largely in low- to middle-income countries.

According to new research released with the Lancet articles, Kenji Shibuya from the University of Tokyo and colleagues show that although overall rates of smoking are slowly declining, the prevalence of tobacco use is actually expected to increase in some countries over the next decade, notably in Africa and the Middle East.

And because the world’s population is rising, there will still be more than 1 billion smokers in 2025, unless global action against tobacco accelerates markedly, the research said.