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Cancer doctors urge new tobacco tax

From Miriam Falco

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CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- Doctors who fight cancer want a stiff new tax on tobacco and tougher laws against secondhand smoke in public places as part of a strategy to save the 1 billion people expected to die this century because of smoking.

The American Society of Clinical Oncologists adopted the recommendations Saturday at its annual meeting in Chicago.

The new policy statement also called for a blue ribbon committee to be formed to study the medical, social and economic aspects of tobacco worldwide.

"The end point is a tobacco and smoke-free world," ASCO President Dr. Paul Bunnn said.

The policy recommends a $2 federal tax added to each pack of cigarettes sold in the United States, an end to federal promotion of U.S. tobacco exports and laws to further reduce exposure to secondhand smoke.

American Cancer Society CEO John Seffrin called tobacco "the only weapon of mass destruction used against people all over the world."

Seffrin said if current trends continue the world "will suffer the largest industry created pandemic in history."

"Eight people die every minute of every day because of tobacco," said Bunn, a cancer expert from the University of Colorado.

"One third of all cancer deaths are tobacco related, making it the most costly and yet preventable disease."

Bunn said the United States has a responsibility to act because "most of those [tobacco-related] deaths are due to American products.

Research presented at the conference estimated 1 million people take up smoking in the United States each year, 30 million worldwide.

Oxford University tobacco researcher Sir Richard Peto's data concluded that half of those smokers would eventually be killed by their habit.

At the present rate, Peto predicts 150 million people will die from tobacco-related deaths by 2025, another 300 million by 2050 and 1 billion by the end of the 21st century.

Peto said 70 percent of those who die will be in developing nations.

Bunn said it would take years before a commission to study worldwide tobacco issues could make progress on the smoking and cancer trends.

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