Tobacco Atlas, 5th edition, launched at WCTOH

The Tobacco Atlas finds industry tactics are creating a future of missed opportunity to improve global health, wealth, and equality

The Tobacco Atlas, Fifth Edition (“The Atlas”), and its companion mobile app and website, were unveiled by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation at the 16th World Conference on Tobacco o Health. The Atlas graphically details the scale of the tobacco epidemic; the harmful influence of tobacco on health, poverty, social justice, and the environment; the progress being made in tobacco control; and the latest products and tactics being used by the industry to protect its profits and delay and derail tobacco control.

Key points:

The Atlas’ authors conclude that the battle against tobacco has reached a critical stage: Strong tobacco control laws have led to reductions in smoking prevalence but much remains to be done. 

  • The tobacco industry is committing unprecedented resources to litigate, threaten, and interfere with efforts to introduce, implement, and enforce tobacco control.
  • The increase in tobacco users in the world’s most populous countries is outpacing the global impact of tobacco control. There are now over 1 billion smokers in the world.
  • Over 300 million people use smokeless tobacco, and the use of other alternative tobacco products, like water pipes, is growing.
  • Over 5.8 trillion cigarettes were smoked in 2014. 
  • 90% of the world’s population live in countries that have ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), but only 10% are covered by comprehensive tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship (TAPS) bans and only 16% by comprehensive smoke-free laws.
  • Progress made in de-normalizing smoking may be reversed by the increasing prevalence of e-cigarettes and other alternative tobacco products.
  • Tobacco is killing more than half and as many as two-thirds of tobacco users.

The Atlas also reveals the extent of the tobacco industry’s expanding and well-resourced array of tactics to preserve its profits, to hide the truth from the public and to influence or derail regulation. Among the top six transnational tobacco companies – accounting for 85% of all cigarettes smoked globally – profits have reached US$44.1 billion or around US$7,000 for every tobacco-related death, up from US$6,000 per death when the last edition of The Atlas was published in 2012. 

In addition, The Atlas describes the economic impact of tobacco use: It costs the global economy over US$1 trillion and may have an economic impact of as much as US$2.1 trillion, according to other sources. Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) represent over 80% of tobacco users and tobacco-related deaths, so an increasing proportion of this cost is born by people who can least afford it.

Without change, governments around the world will miss targets to improve health and opportunities to reduce the harm of tobacco, and bolder, faster action on the part of all stakeholders is needed to reduce tobacco use.

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