The tragedy continues

Blog Post created by dr_hays on Jan 11, 2017

A blockbuster report, The Economics of Tobacco, and Tobacco Control was just released by the National Cancer Institute in collaboration with the World Health Organization. https://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/brp/tcrb/monographs/21/docs/m21_exec_sum.pdf


The findings are that the number of smokers worldwide is not decreasing, and that the deaths caused by smoking will increase in the next 10-15 years from 6 million to 8 million each year.   The report describes how the health and financial burdens caused by tobacco increasingly and disproportionately hurt low and middle-income countries. 


This is especially dismaying because the tactics to prevent this are well understood. Countries that implement policies to provide effective health warnings, raise the cost of cigarettes, stop second hand smoke exposure, help people stop smoking, and eliminate tobacco smuggling can dramatically reduce smoking rates, prevent many deaths and illnesses and gain financially.


So why do countries not put in place these proven policies that will improve the public health and save them money?  The main reason is that the power of tobacco companies in the market is greater now than ever before.   In addition to marketing and lobbying, tobacco companies have become very adept at undermining effective policies and intimidating governments with legal threats and measures that could bankrupt poor countries.  It seems preposterous that an international company can take legal measures to undermine countries wanting to improve their public health, but that is happening.  Marketing, lobbying, and lawsuits are causing increases in illness, and burdensome economic distress.


In closing I’ve provided a link below to a John Oliver video that makes this point more eloquently than I could.  It has some risqué language, but will make you laugh while illustrating a public health tragedy which has simple, effective, but neglected remedies.