The World Health Organization (WHO) regards smoking as a global health problem and the world’s second largest cause of deaths. Smoking deaths have already gotten to the point of five million per year, more than 10 thousand per day.
In Brazil 200 thousand people die each year as a result of smoking cigarettes, according to data from the National Cancer Institute (INCA, Instituto Nacional do Câncer).
WHO estimates say that there are 1.3 billion smokers in the world. Half of them, around 650 million, will die prematurely from some disease connected with tobacco use.
The WHO forecasts a 31% increase in the number of tobacco-related deaths in the next 20 years. If this projection is confirmed, the number of annual deaths throughout the world will amount to 10 million.
The economic costs of tobacco use are also high. According to the WHO, the product is responsible for a net annual global loss of US$ 200 billion and increases global inequality, poverty, and malnutrition. A third of this loss occurs in developing countries like Brazil.
These grave social and economic consequences led the member countries of the WHO to support the adoption of the Tobacco Control Framework Convention, the world’s first public health treaty.
For the Brazilian director of the WHO’s Free Tobacco Iniciative Program, Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, it is essential for Brazil to ratify the treaty.
“For the 200 thousand deaths that occur in the Brazilian population, as well as the need to promote public health, apart from the fact that tobacco taxes, contraband, and advertising are matters that the Brazilian government can’t deal with alone without being part of an international treaty,” Costa e Silva affirms.
INCA president, José Gomes Temporão, believes that the ratification of the Convention is most of all a strategic attitude for the country and is not at odds with the continuation of tobacco cultivation.
“We must choose between public health and life. It is evident that the situation of small growers must be taken into account, but their fears are really being heated up by the industry, because there is nothing in the Framework Convention that threatens the continuation of tobacco production in the short run,” he asserts.
Translator: David Silberstein