Tobacco’€™s burden shifting from rich to poor

‘€œUnless these high rates of smoking are curtailed, cancer mortality rates will continue to rise,’€ said Harvard Medical School Professor Paul Goss, lead author of a new Lancet Oncology study about cancer prevention in Latin America.

His statements about Latin America hold true elsewhere. A recent report in The World showed that cancer doesn’€™t only affect the developed world, but is also taking a heavy toll in the poorest countries. Some cancers ‘€“ including lung, cervical, stomach and liver ‘€“ hit developing populations especially hard, with lung cancer quickly becoming a leading cause of death in the developing world.

The main cause behind the spike in lung cancer deaths in developing countries is an increase in smoking, and threatens the future health of these countries from both a medical and economic perspective.

A special supplement published in 2012 in the journal Cancer Causes and Control described vividly how tobacco may soon exacerbate global inequality.

Currently, smoking causes a higher proportion of deaths in high-income countries than in low- and middle-income countries because, until recently, smoking was much more common in wealthier countries than in poorer ones.

‘€œHowever, because of the approximately 30-year time lag between peak tobacco consumption and peak tobacco-related mortality, this global pattern largely reflects past tobacco use in high-income countries,’€ wrote one of the study authors. Now, with about 80 percent of the world’€™s smokers living in low- and middle- income countries: ‘€œThe future burden of tobacco will largely fall on low- and middle-income countries.’€

This shift of tobacco consumption from the rich to the poor could have huge economic consequences as well. Studies suggest that tobacco use worsens poverty due to hospitalisation costs, and buying cigarettes cuts into the ability to buy food, clothing, and education. According to a World Bank study, among the lowest-income groups in Indonesia, 15 percent of total household expenditures goes to tobacco.

Additionally, tobacco use lowers productivity due to sickness and early death. According to the World Health Organisation: ‘€œTobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of health care and hinder economic development.’€

Source: The World

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