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Tobacco-Caused Deaths Projected to Increase Further

Tobacco kills about six million people each year throughout the world.
A British medical journal reports that the number of cancer cases could rise by 75 percent by the year 2030 - and most are expected in developing countries.

Virtually all experts on tobacco use recognize it as the single most preventable cause of death worldwide. At the American Cancer Society, Nathan Grey focuses on global health issues.

"Each year, tobacco kills about six million people throughout the world, and by 2030, that's projected to grow to about eight million people," he said.

Grey was one of the authors of a report published in the British medical journal, The Lancet. The report projects cancer rates to rise by 75 percent worldwide in less than 20 years.

"It's staggering. Six million deaths every year. There's no reason for any one of those deaths," said Joanna Cohen, who heads the Institute for Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Many of the projected cancer deaths are expected to impact developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Sub-Saharan Africa is the last geographic region of the world that still has low smoking rates. It's the last place where we could potentially avoid an epidemic of tobacco-related deaths," said Gray.

Gray points out that the tobacco companies see this region as a vast untapped market. He says the American Cancer Society and other organizations are working hard to address the issue.

"If we are not successful, we are going to see some of the very same tragic loss of life, death, disability, impact on the economies that we've seen with HIV/AIDS," he said.

Experts say there are a lot of things governments can do to help prevent tobacco- related cancers and other tobacco-related deaths.

"The most effective tobacco control strategy that we have to date is to raise cigarette excise taxes. If we increase the price of cigarettes, then people will be less likely to afford cigarettes and they'll stop smoking," said John Ayers, the lead author of another tobacco study.

Studies show that education campaigns, banning smoking in public places, banning tobacco advertising, and sponsorship of popular events works.

"When you think about other global pandemics such as AIDS, there's no corporate interest cheering on the AIDS virus, right? In tobacco, we've got huge corporate interests fighting every step of the way. So not only are we trying to address and addictive problem, we have a completely preventable pandemic," said Joanna Cohen of the Institute for Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

The challenge, experts say, is defeating the massive marketing efforts of tobacco companies.