The world's biggest tobacco companies make a profit equivalent to USD 9,730 for the death of each smoker, claims a report which found that the industry is increasingly profiting from vulnerable populations of countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
The Tobacco Atlas report, by American Cancer Society (ACS) and US-based non-profit Vital Strategies, details the scale of the tobacco epidemic around the globe.
It shows where progress has been made in tobacco control, and describes the latest products and tactics being deployed by the tobacco industry to grow its profits and delay or derail tobacco control efforts.
In 2016 alone, tobacco use caused over 7.1 million deaths worldwide. Most of these deaths were attributable to cigarette smoking, while 884,000 were related to secondhand smoke.
The increase in tobacco-related disease and death has been outpaced by the increase in industry profits.
The combined profits of the world's biggest tobacco companies exceeded USD 62.27 billion in 2015, the last year on record for all the major companies.
This is equivalent to USD 9,730 for the death of each smoker, an increase of 39 per cent since the last Atlas was published, when the figure stood at USD 7,000.
"Every death from tobacco is preventable, and every government has the power reduce the human and economic toll of the tobacco epidemic," said Jeffrey Drope, author of The Atlas.
"It starts by resisting the influence of the industry and implementing proven tobacco control policies. The Atlas shows that progress is possible in every region of the world," said Drope, Vice President, Economic and Health Policy Research at the American Cancer Society.
"African countries in particular are at a critical point - both because they are targets of the industry but also because many have opportunity to strengthen policies and act before smoking is at epidemic levels," he said.
"Tobacco causes harm at every stage of its life cycle, from cultivation to disposal," said Neil Schluger, Vital Strategies' Senior Advisor for Science.
"At a conservative estimate, there are more than 7 million tobacco-related deaths and global economic costs of two trillion dollars (PPP) each year, not including costs such as those caused by second-hand smoke and the environmental and health damages of tobacco farming," said Schluger.
Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke costs the global economy more than two trillion dollars every year - equivalent to almost two per cent of the world's total economic output.
More than 1.1 billion people are current smokers, while 360 million people use smokeless tobacco.
Low and middle income countries represent over 80 per cent of tobacco users and tobacco-related deaths, placing an increased share of tobacco-related costs on those who can least afford it.
The report shows that the tobacco industry deliberately targets countries that lack tobacco control laws and exploits governments, farmers and vulnerable populations across Africa.
In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, consumption increased by 52 per cent between 1980 and 2016.
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