Karen Slama of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and a team of researchers reviewed a large body of evidence and concluded that smoking increases TB rates. This means that tobacco increases the pool of people moving to TB disease.

‘€œAlong every step of the chain, tobacco adds risk,’€ Slama explained.

Slama presented her results at the 38th Union meeting in Cape Town.

‘€œThe risk of TB is also increased when people are exposed to secondhand smoke,’€ Slama said.

She said there were not a lot of countries where the TB Control Programmes looked at smoking cessation.

Tobacco is currently the world’€™s leading cause of death

Dr Yussuf Saloojee, head of South Africa’€™s National Council Against Smoking, said the country had made significant progress since 1991 and that 2003 statistics had revealed that 23-billion cigarettes had been consumed in that year, compared to 40-billion 12 years prior.

Saloojee ascribed the success to an increase in taxes on tobacco products, the banning of advertising and promotions and the creation of smoke-free public places.

He said the next push would be to add picture based health warnings to cigarette packets.

‘€œHealth messages become stale and wear out. A picture tells a better story than a thousand words,’€ Saloojee said.

Picture based health warnings in countries such as Canada are of patients with cancer of the mouth or face or aborted fetuses.