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A Global Epidemic

A Global Epidemic

Smoking is a relentless killer.

  • It killed 100,000,000 people during the last century.

  • It takes about 6,000,000 lives a year.

  • On average, it kills one person every six seconds.

And there is no sign of a turnaround.

Authorities estimate that if current trends persist, by 2030, the annual death toll from smoking will climb to more than 8,000,000. And they predict that smoking will have taken 1,000,000,000 lives by the end of the 21st century.

Tobacco’s victims are not just the smokers. Included are the surviving family members, who suffer emotional and financial loss, as well as the 600,000 nonsmokers who die each year from breathing secondhand smoke. The burden spreads to everyone in the form of rising health-care costs.

Unlike epidemics that send doctors racing to discover a cure, this scourge is eminently curable; the solution is well-known. Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, stated: “The tobacco epidemic is entirely man-made, and it can be turned around through the concerted efforts of governments and civil society.”

International response to combat this health crisis has been unprecedented. As of August 2012, some 175 countries have agreed to take measures to curb tobacco use. * However, powerful forces keep the pandemic raging. Each year, the tobacco industry spends billions of dollars on advertising to attract new customers, especially among women and young adults living in developing countries. The addictive nature of tobacco almost ensures that casualties will remain high among the one billion smokers already hooked. Unless current users quit, the death toll will climb sharply over the next four decades.

Advertising and addiction keep many trapped in a habit they wish they could break. That was the experience of Naoko. She began smoking as a teen. Copying the way the habit was portrayed in the media made her feel sophisticated. Despite seeing both of her parents die from lung cancer, she continued smoking, even while raising her two daughters. “I was concerned about getting lung cancer and worried about my children’s health,” she admits, “but I still couldn’t quit. I thought I would never stop smoking.”

Yet, Naoko did stop. She found the motivation to overcome her smoking habit in the same source that has helped millions remain free of tobacco. What is that source? Please read on.

^ par. 11 These measures include educating people about the dangers of smoking, restricting tobacco-industry marketing, raising tobacco taxes, and establishing programs to help people quit smoking.