Tobacco deaths a developing problem

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Numbers in developing countries now equal to those in industrialized world

Research published in the Sept. 13, 2003 issue of the medical journal The Lancet shows that global tobacco deaths were about 4.8 million in 2000, with about 2.4 million each in developing and industrialized nations. “The bottom line is that tobacco at this point in time is no longer [just] a Western problem,” said Harvard School of Public Health Assistant Professor Majid Ezzati, who conducted the research with University of Queensland Professor Alan Lopez. Though the research paints a bleak picture of 2000’s tobacco-related mortality, it also hints that things are about to get much worse unless anti-smoking campaigns and policies are stepped up globally. Though deaths due to tobacco are roughly equal in the industrialized and developing worlds, most of the world’s smokers – 930 million out of 1.1 billion – live in developing countries and middle-income nations, including Eastern European nations in the former Soviet bloc. Ezzati said there haven’t yet been more deaths in developing countries because it takes 20 to 30 years of smoking before large-scale illness and death become visible. Without vigorous anti-smoking campaigns, a large increase in tobacco-related deaths is looming.