Recent adoption of tougher anti-tobacco and smoking policies will prevent 7.4 million premature deaths by 2050, according to a new study published by the World Health Organization (WHO). Those figures represent the end results of anti-tobacco efforts launched by 41 countries between 2007 and 2010 alone — but the study concludes that many countries still have a long way to go when it comes to adopting tobacco-related public health initiatives.
The report found that raising tobacco taxes and enforcing smoking-related air quality controls (such as public smoking bans) were the most effective anti-smoking measures by far, reducing the number of worldwide regular adult smokers by 7 million and 5 million, respectively. Combined, those two strategies are estimated to have prevented 6 million premature deaths due to tobacco use. That’s in line with historical evidence, too. For example, England’s ban on indoor public smoking led to the largest decrease in smoking ever seen in England, and reduced asthma-related hospital admissions for children by more than 12.3 percent.
Colombia, Pakistan, and Thailand benefited the most out of all nations from recent secondhand smoke control measures, whereas Argentina, Italy, and Romania dramatically reduced their smoking populations by instituting high tobacco taxes. Turkey experienced significantly lower tobacco use with a combination of the two tactics.
Still, many countries have yet to implement any of the WHO’s recommended smoking policies, even though tobacco use causes more than 5 million preventable deaths per year globally — a number that is still expected to rise to 8 million annuals deaths by 2030, despite recent progress. The WHO study concludes that only 11 percent of the world population lives in countries with secondhand smoke control laws, and only eight percent in a country that imposes the organization’s recommended minimum tobacco tax.
If those nations were to ramp up their anti-tobacco efforts, they wouldn’t just be rewarded with healthier populations today — they would also see those health benefits reverberate through future generations. “In addition to some 7.4 million lives saved, the tobacco control policies we examined can lead to other health benefits, such as fewer adverse birth outcomes related to maternal smoking, including low birth weight, and reduced health-care costs and less loss of productivity due to less smoking-related disease,” said Georgetown University oncology professor and lead study author Dr. David Levy in a press release.