In its tenth anniversary edition, the latest Tobacco Atlas report by the World Lung Foundation (WLF) had some bad news to share: Tobacco-related deaths have nearly tripled in the past decade. If current trends continue, tobacco use and exposure will be responsible for the death of one person every six seconds which adds up to a billion deaths this century.
However, ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross has a bone to pick with the wording in the WLF report: It s not tobacco that s responsible for these deaths, he says, it s cigarettes! Smoking is what s responsible for killing 50 million people in the last ten years cigarettes are the cause of over 15 percent of all male deaths and 7 percent of female deaths.
Fortunately, Michael Erikson, one of the WLF report s authors and the director of the Institute of Public Health at Georgia State University, gets the terminology correct when he points out that, although smokingrates in affluent nations have overall declined, cigarette smoking is actually increasing in developing countries which is the major contributing factor to the increase in smoking-related mortality. And given the lax regulation of cigarette marketing and a lack of other restrictions in less-developed regions, the toll of smoking will be rising there as it continues to fall here in the U.S.
But how can government agencies and public health organizations help reduce the devastating toll of cigarette smoking? By promoting tobacco harm reduction, of course! And coincidentally, today marks the first annual celebration of World Vaping Day! (Vaping refers to the use of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes.) Sponsored by the World Vaping Day Project Group, the event highlights the growing popularity of e-cigarettes and encourages smokers to make the switch.
As Dr. Joel Nitzkin, chair of the Tobacco Control Task Force of the American Association of Public Health Physicians points out, If we get all tobacco smokers to switch from regular cigarettes to e-cigarettes, we would eventually reduce the U.S. death toll from more than 400,000 a year to less than 4,000, maybe as low as 400.
ACSH has long worked to inform smokers and public health authorities that it is not the nicotine in cigarettes that s harmful to health, but rather it s the inhaled products of combustion the smoke that cause cancer and other diseases. Nicotine is the addictive ingredient in cigarettes that keeps smokers hooked, but it s not the ingredient that harms smokers health, explained Dr. Ursula Bauer, director of the New York State Tobacco Control Program.