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As smoking goes passe in U.S., Third World lights up

smokers April 16, 1997
Web posted at: 8:35 p.m. EDT (0035 GMT)

(CNN) -- While American cigarette companies look to cut their losses at home -- where the environment is increasingly hostile to smoking -- elsewhere in the world tobacco is a growth industry.

The World Health Organization estimates there are one billion smokers worldwide, and they smoke six trillion cigarettes a year.

The WHO also estimates that tobacco kills more than 3 million people each year, or one every 10 seconds.

What concerns it even more is that, at the current growth rate for both the population and smoking, the death rate from smoking will exceed 10 million a year in 30 years.

Smoking is booming in developing countries.

tobacco stats

In Malaysia and the Philippines, for example, television ads trumpet the joys of smoking American-made cigarettes. And in China, where billboards featuring cigarettes are everywhere, consumption is double what it was a few years ago.

Even the French find it hard to quit

Even in France, a country where lack of information can hardly be the problem, anti-smoking crusaders are having a hard time converting their countrymen.

Marlboro sign

To many French, the opportunity to light up one of the country's notoriously pungent cigarettes is considered as much a part of the national heritage as drinking wine or eating a baguette.

And in Japan, one could be forgiven for thinking that drinking and smoking after work is the national sport of the salaryman.

Although more men smoke than women, the number of female smokers is increasing, raising concerns about the children of smokers. Smoking during pregnancy has been shown to have harmful affects on the human fetus, and the danger of "passive" smoking -- inhaling smoke from nearby smokers -- is well-established as a health threat.

Hence the concern among health authorities.

"Tobacco is fast becoming a greater cause of death and disability than any single disease," says the WHO.

John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society, has an even bleaker outlook. "We're about to witness the largest manmade, tobacco-industry-induced pandemic that the world has ever seen," he says.

Correspondent Al Hinman contributed to this report.


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