At What Cost? The Economic Impact of Tobacco Use on National Health Systems, Societies and Individuals : A Summary of Methods and Findings

By The World Bank | Go to book overview

Executive Summary

Chapter 1:
Introduction to the Tobacco Epidemic

Tobacco use is widely acknowledged as the single most important preventable cause of health problems worldwide. Despite this consensus, approximately 1.1 billion individuals smoke worldwide, and over 4 million people currently die of tobacco use each year (1). By 2030, the total number of smokers is expected to reach about 1.6 billion out of a global population of 8.5 billion, with approximately 10 million smokers dying annually. Current worldwide smoking patterns suggest that 500 million people alive today will eventually die of tobacco use (2). The problem is more serious in the developing world, where the number of smokers is expected to increase at the rate of 2% per year, outstripping global population growth. On the other hand, tobacco consumption is decreasing in the developed world at an average of 1% per year (3). Of the estimated 10 million annual tobacco-related deaths expected by 2030, 7 million are expected to occur in developing countries (4).

Since tobacco use is a global health problem, countries should cooperate to address the situation on an international level even as they tailor their tobacco control efforts to their own unique circumstances. To advance effective tobacco control policies, data concerning the health and economic consequences of the epidemic are required, as well as information on how these health sequelae and costs are distributed among individuals, households, communities, and society at large. Costs to society at large must be further distinguished from those of the public health-care system, as the proportion of costs borne by the latter varies from one country to another depending on political, economic, social, and cultural factors. Standardized economic evaluation methods are needed to help governments and researchers measure the real costs of tobacco use to their societies, thus paving the road to informed tobacco control policies.

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