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HEALTH REPORT - WHO Sees Tobacco Risk to a Billion Lives This Century

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This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Twenty-five percent of all smokers are in China
Twenty-five percent of all smokers are in China

The World Health Organization is urging countries to follow six policies to prevent millions of tobacco-related deaths. The six policies are known as MPOWER, spelled M-P-O-W-E-R.

The M is for monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies. The P is for protecting people by establishing smoke-free areas.

O stands for offering services to help people stop smoking. W is for warning people about the dangers of tobacco.

E is for enforcing bans on tobacco advertising and other forms of marketing. And R is for raising taxes on tobacco.

The W.H.O. says in a major new report that raising taxes is the single most effective way to reduce tobacco use. A study found that governments now collect an average of five hundred times more money in tobacco taxes each year than they spend on control efforts.

The W.H.O. says tobacco now causes more than five million deaths a year. It predicts this number will rise to more than eight million by the year two thousand thirty. By the end of the century, it says, tobacco could kill one billion people -- ten times as many as in the twentieth century.

The large majority of these deaths will take place in developing countries. More than twenty-five percent of all smokers in the world are Chinese. India, Indonesia, Russia and the United States, in that order, follow China in tobacco use.

The W.H.O. found that only five percent of all people live in countries with protections like national legislation on smoke-free areas or bans on tobacco advertising. Forty percent of countries still permit smoking in hospitals and schools.

An international treaty on tobacco control came into force in two thousand five.

Tobacco companies face increasingly restrictive marketplaces in many wealthier countries. The industry is now aiming at the developing world, especially young women. The report says large numbers of people do not yet know the dangers of smoking.

W.H.O. Director General Margaret Chan points out that tobacco hurts economies in two ways. One is through reduced productivity among workers who get lung cancer or other tobacco-related diseases. The other way is through high health care costs for treating those diseases.

The W.H.O. study was announced in New York City. New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has worked hard to restrict smoking in America's largest city. And his charitable group, Bloomberg Philanthropies, helped pay for the study.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report written by Caty Weaver. I'm Bob Doughty.

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