Global Toll Of Smoking Spotlighted In Tobacco Atlas, Authored By Dean Of School Of Public Health

ABU DHABI– Despite clear evidence of the damage that smoking does to human health, the tobacco industry is expanding its sales in low- and middle-income countries across the globe, increasing the burden of chronic health problems in the poorest nations, according to the newly released fifth edition of The Tobacco Atlas.

The Atlas, released on March 19, argues the production and use of tobacco are not only a threat to public health, but also a drag on global economic development. Tobacco use harms the environment, the Atlas says, causing more chronic diseases than previously understood, and contributes to social and economic inequality, with women and children targeted for aggressive marketing in low- and middle-income countries where government regulations are frequently weak.

Dr. Michael Eriksen, dean of the School of Public Health at Georgia State University, is the lead author of the Atlas, which was released at the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi.

“We are at a critical stage in the fight against tobacco,” Eriksen said. “About 1 billion adults are smokers. While many countries like Brazil, Australia, Turkey, Uruguay and the U.S. have worked hard to adopt smoke-free policies, the tobacco industry has put growing focus on marketing their products in parts of the world where people can least afford the burden of cancer and the many other chronic health problems caused by smoking.

“And the increased popularity of electronic cigarettes and other products threatens to take us backwards by making smoking seem socially acceptable.”

Eriksen has a long history of work in tobacco control. He is a former director of the Office on Smoking and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has been a senior adviser to the World Health Organization. He is the lead researcher on a $19 million grant to establish a Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration at Georgia State to focus on an important and often overlooked aspect of regulatory science, the understanding of human decision-making around the use of tobacco.

The Atlas, a joint project of the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation, has a companion website, TobaccoAtlas.org, which provides a free electronic version of the book. The website also allows journalists, policymakers, public health practitioners and advocates to interact with the data and create customized charts, graphs and maps.

Peter Baldini, chief executive officer of the World Lung Foundation, said he hopes the latest edition of the Atlas will help raise awareness of the new challenges in tobacco control, while encouraging governments across the globe to take stronger action.

“There is a perception that we know everything about tobacco and the harm it causes, but the truth is that every edition of The Tobacco Atlas reveals something new about the industry, its tactics and the real harm it causes,” Baldini said.