By now, we know that tobacco kills more than half of those who regularly use it and has a two-trillion-dollar (PPP) economic cost to society each year. Fortunately, the global community is making progress toward improving tobacco control. The efforts of governments, civil society and the international community, including through the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), are having life-saving effects in many countries. Recently, overall global tobacco consumption has even decreased slightly. However, we continue to contend with the reality that many countries with young populations are experiencing growing prevalence as the tobacco industry’s tactics continually undermine public health efforts.
This sixth edition of the Tobacco Atlas and its companion website— tobaccoatlas.org —bring readers and users an exciting and comprehensive guide to key tobacco control issues. It weaves together two related narratives: the bleak reality of the damage that tobacco causes even before it sprouts from the ground, and an optimistic examination of the evidence-based tools that we’re using to address this reality, which could be further enhanced through more effective implementation.
We begin the narrative with cultivation of tobacco leaf, the foundation of every tobacco product. Here commences an enduring narrative of ill health and exploitation, in this case of the millions of mostly poor smallholder tobacco farmers. The tobacco industry turns the leaf into a variety of deadly tobacco products— most commonly cigarettes— and aggressively markets them, particularly to young people and other potentially vulnerable groups. In recent years, seeing opportunities in the lower prevalence among women and girls, and in many countries/regions low on the human development index (HDI) (Pop-out for HDI explanation), the industry has tailored its marketing efforts in this direction. It also continues to target many vulnerable populations in all countries. Accordingly, we explore global smoking and secondhand smoke prevalence followed by their results: adverse health effects, comorbidities, deaths from tobacco, and the broader costs to society.
The second half of the Atlas is more optimistic, focusing on the proven tools and strategies that we use to address the tobacco epidemic at almost every stage of the cycle of a tobacco product. These interventions include cessation efforts, marketing bans, smoke-free policies, tobacco taxes and mass media campaigns, among others. The market for tobacco products is also shifting in unpredictable ways. Some are optimistic that new non-combustible products that are potentially less harmful will diminish the market size of cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products. Others are understandably cautious about the uncertainty and any approach that involves tobacco companies, given their long history of deception and malfeasance.
The book can be read as a whole— a comprehensive narrative of the complete “cycle of tobacco”— or each chapter can be read on its own as a core component of this narrative. Importantly, we have developed a new, more dynamic companion website to 1) provide comprehensive, up-to-date data coverage; 2) address other important topics that we lack space to cover here (e.g., smokeless tobacco and water pipes); and 3) offer a place where we will regularly introduce timely and relevant new content. We hope the Tobacco Atlas will inspire you to action to improve tobacco control in your country, and will provide helpful guidance on the many tools to achieve these goals.
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