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Controlling Tobacco To Save 7.4 Million by 2050, Study Says

Tobacco Control Photo

“In addition to some 7.4 million lives saved, the tobacco control policies we examined can lead to other health benefits such as fewer adverse birth outcomes related to maternal smoking, including low birth weight and reduced health-care costs and less loss of productivity due to less smoking-related disease,” says David Levy, professor of oncology at Georgetown.

July 3, 2013 – Tobacco control measures in more than 40 countries between 2007 and 2010 will likely prevent 7.4 million premature deaths by 2050, according to a Georgetown study published today in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The study is one of the first to look at the effect of such measures since the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was established in 2005. It demonstrates the success of the convention in reducing tobacco use and consequently saving lives.

Saving Lives

“It’s a spectacular finding that by implementing these simple tobacco control policies, governments can save so many lives,” said lead author David Levy, professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The Bulletin is one of the world’s leading public health journals.

WHO identified six evidence-based tobacco control measures in 2008 that are most effective in reducing tobacco use, and began to provide technical support to help countries fulfill their convention obligations. The measures, known as MPOWER, include:

  • Monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies
  • Protecting people from tobacco smoke
  • Offering help to quit tobacco use
  • Warning people about the dangers of tobacco
  • Enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
  • Raising taxes on tobacco

Other Health Benefits

Levy and his research team did a modeling exercise and projected the number of premature deaths that would be averted by 2050 through the implementation of one or more of these measures.

The study focused on the more than 40 countries that had implemented the reduction measures at a level proven to attain the greatest impact.

“In addition to some 7.4 million lives saved, the tobacco control policies we examined can lead to other health benefits such as fewer adverse birth outcomes related to maternal smoking, including low birth weight and reduced health-care costs and less loss of productivity due to less smoking-related disease,” Levy said.

If these high-impact tobacco control measures were implemented even more widely, millions more smoking-related deaths would be averted, said Dr. Douglas Bettcher, director of the department of noncommunicable diseases at WHO. “Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the world.”

Entirely Preventable

Bettcher said there are now 6 million smoking-attributable deaths per year that are projected to rise to 8 million a year by 2030, if current trends continue.

“By taking the right measures, this tobacco epidemic can be entirely prevented,” he said.

The WHO convention was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. Since its creation, 175 countries and the European Union have become parties to the convention, the most rapidly and widely embraced treaty in United Nations history.

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