WHO: Smoking to kill 1 billion people this century

When Mayor Mike Bloomberg raised New York city’s tax on cigarettes from 8 cents a pack to $1.50 in 2002 (putting the total tax on a pack at about $3), a lot of my friends simply went out of state to buy cartons. But, faced with the prospect of $7 packs, a lot of them ...

596562_smokers_05.png
596562_smokers_05.png

When Mayor Mike Bloomberg raised New York city's tax on cigarettes from 8 cents a pack to $1.50 in 2002 (putting the total tax on a pack at about $3), a lot of my friends simply went out of state to buy cartons. But, faced with the prospect of $7 packs, a lot of them quit, too. Steep tax hikes on tobacco have always seemed to me to be the only way to depress smoking rates, a feat that smoking bans never really accomplish (though they do leave your clothes smelling far better at the end of an evening at the bar).

Bloomberg, a former smoker himself, has been a vocal anti-tobacco advocate since quitting more than two decades ago. He recently gave $2 million to finance the most comprehensive report on smoking around the world to date, which was unveiled by the WHO Thursday. He's also pledged $125 million more over the next two years for global anti-smoking efforts.

While progress has been made in many countries thanks to higher taxes and bans in public places (the unbelievable smoking ban in Paris cafes, for example), smoking is on the rise in the developing world. The WHO projects that one billion people, 80 percent of them in the developing world, will die of smoking-related illnesses by the end of the century if trends continue on their current trajectory.

When Mayor Mike Bloomberg raised New York city’s tax on cigarettes from 8 cents a pack to $1.50 in 2002 (putting the total tax on a pack at about $3), a lot of my friends simply went out of state to buy cartons. But, faced with the prospect of $7 packs, a lot of them quit, too. Steep tax hikes on tobacco have always seemed to me to be the only way to depress smoking rates, a feat that smoking bans never really accomplish (though they do leave your clothes smelling far better at the end of an evening at the bar).

Bloomberg, a former smoker himself, has been a vocal anti-tobacco advocate since quitting more than two decades ago. He recently gave $2 million to finance the most comprehensive report on smoking around the world to date, which was unveiled by the WHO Thursday. He’s also pledged $125 million more over the next two years for global anti-smoking efforts.

While progress has been made in many countries thanks to higher taxes and bans in public places (the unbelievable smoking ban in Paris cafes, for example), smoking is on the rise in the developing world. The WHO projects that one billion people, 80 percent of them in the developing world, will die of smoking-related illnesses by the end of the century if trends continue on their current trajectory.

Nearly two thirds of the world’s smokers live in just 10 countries. In China, with about 30 percent of the world’s smokers, perhaps 100 million men under the age of 30 will die of tobacco use unless they quit.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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