This column is about a subject that was once a hot topic, smoking, but to some degree has dropped off our direct radar because of laws forbidding advertising of the product and because the United States has seen a reduction of smoking during the past decade. Let me say upfront, however, that this column is NOT a sermon on quitting smoking. It is, however, a factual account concerning what is going on in the world regarding cigarette sales and smoking.
One reason I decided to write about this subject is that every time I travel out of the country, I am struck by the large numbers of people smoking. While in Russia, I was amazed at the number of people who smoked, and on more than one occasion I was approached by young ladies in short skirts and low tops working for cigarette companies. Their job was simple: to give away free cigarettes, particularly to children and young adults. Remember, the United States may have laws dealing with this kind of activity, but most countries do not.
According to the World Health Organization, about 90,000 children begin smoking every day. Among young teens (ages 1-15), about one in five smokes worldwide. About 90,000 children worldwide start smoking every day, about half of whom live in Asia. About one–fourth of young people in the Western Pacific Region of the world will die from smoking. Let me repeat: About one in four young people in the Western Pacific Region alive today will die from smoking.
Globally, smoking-related diseases kill one in 10 adults and every eight seconds, someone dies from tobacco use. Half of all long-term smokers will die a tobacco-related death and tobacco use is expected to claim one billion lives this century unless serious anti-smoking efforts are effected on a global level. Again, that’s one billion as in nine zeros.
Now, a few other statistics:
• Presently, globally there are just over one billion smokers and in 14 more years that number will be 1.6 billion.
• Fifteen billion cigarettes are sold every day.
• One survey found that 60 percent of Chinese adults did not know that smoking can cause lung cancer and 96 percent didn’t know it can cause heart disease.
• About one-third of the male adult global population smokes. In China, 67 percent of the men smoke. In Cambodia, that figure is even higher. In Japan, 51 percent of men smoke. In Malaysia, about half of the men smoke. In the Philippines, about 60 percent of the men smoke. In the Republic Korea, about 67 percent of the men smoke.
• Philip Morris – the world’s largest cigarette company – was the ninth largest advertiser in 1996, spending more than $3 billion.
• Another survey found that tobacco companies are among the top 10 advertisers in 18 out of 66 countries surveyed.
• In Russia, foreign tobacco companies are the largest advertisers, accounting for as much as 40 percent of all television and radio advertising.
• The tobacco industry has changed it advertising methods during the past 30 years. Only 10 percent goes to goes to print and outdoor advertisement, while more than half goes to promotional allowances and items such as t-shirts for young people or lighters or key rings.
• Five cigarettes have enough nicotine to kill an average adult if ingested whole.
• Benzene is a cause of myeloid leukemia and cigarette smoke is a major source of benzene.
• Hydrogen cyanide, a byproduct of cigarette smoke, was used as a genocidal chemical agent during World War II.
• Secondhand smoke contain more than 50 cancer-causing chemical compound, 11 of which are known to be Group I carcinogens.
As Joe Friday of Dragnet fame used to say on the old television series, “Just the facts.”
Well, there they are.