New CDC Global Survey Finds Tobacco Taking Massive Toll on World's Children

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jan. 25 2008

Washington, D.C. — A new global survey released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds troubling rates of tobacco use, and even higher rates of exposure to secondhand smoke, among children around the world.

According to the CDC, several findings of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey indicate that the global death toll from tobacco use, already the world’s leading preventable cause of death, may be increasing even faster than thought. These include higher rates of smoking among girls than have been previously found, high levels of exposure to secondhand smoke, and a high level of exposure to tobacco marketing.

The survey was published in the January 25 edition of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Tobacco use already claims about five million lives a year worldwide. That number has been projected to double by 2020, with more than 70 percent of these deaths in developing nations. However, stunningly, the data in the new study suggest that the estimate of a doubling of deaths from smoking could well underestimate the actual future death toll. Altogether, tobacco use is projected to kill one billion people worldwide this century unless urgent action is action.

The new survey underscores the need for nations to take immediate and aggressive action to reduce tobacco use by implementing the measures called for by the World Health Organization international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The treaty calls on ratifying nations, which now number 152, to implement scientifically proven measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, including higher tobacco taxes; laws requiring that all workplaces and public places be smoke-free; stronger, larger health warnings on tobacco products; bans on all tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships; and effective tobacco public education and cessation programs.

The CDC survey includes data collected during 2000-2007 from 140 countries, as well as several territories and regions (for countries that have conducted several surveys during this time period, only the most recent data were included). Key findings include:

  • Rates of tobacco use vary greatly in countries around the world, with youth cigarette smoking rates topping 30 percent in several countries. Worldwide, 9.5 percent of students surveyed currently smoked cigarettes, and 10.1 percent used other tobacco products (such as pipes, water pipes, smokeless tobacco and bidis).
  • Approximately half of the students surveyed reported that they were exposed to secondhand smoke in public places during the week preceding the survey. Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, at least 69 of which are known to cause cancer. It is a proven cause of lung cancer and heart disease in nonsmoking adults and of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low birth weight, acute respiratory infections, ear infections and asthma attacks in infants and children.
  • Approximately two in 10 students own an object with a cigarette brand logo on it – a marketing tactic associated with increased tobacco use known as indirect advertising.
  • One in 10 students have been offered free cigarettes by a tobacco company representative.
  • Approximately seven in 10 students who smoked were not refused purchase of cigarettes from a store during the month preceding the survey.

The good news is that the tobacco epidemic is entirely preventable. We urge governments to act on the huge body of evidence like that found in the new CDC report and protect the public health and economic well-being of their citizens.

 

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