Tobacco: A Global Epidemic

If you’ve been looking for a reason to quit, what you’re about to read
may actually startle you – 1.1 billion of you who presently smoke or
use tobacco products.

According to a recent article on the website,, “by 2030, tobacco is expected to be the
biggest cause of death worldwide, killing one out of every six

While you might contend that statistics are bound to change over the
next 30 years, I wouldn’t venture to disagree. The problem is that
the numbers are not getting better. Presently, 4 million deaths are
attributed to tobacco each year. By 2020, that number is estimated to
increase by 250%. Never before has the world experienced such an

From an historical perspective, the tobacco data is almost
unfathomable. Throughout the ages, populations have been wiped out by
diseases, plagues, natural disasters, starvation, war and genocide.
Yet 10+ million people dying EACH YEAR from a product that individuals
actually pay for has to make everyone of us shake our heads in

The burden for halting this disaster is not on the US alone. China is
the world’s largest importer, producer and consumer of tobacco with
more than 320 million smokers. According to the Johns Hopkins School
of Public Health, the majority of Chinese smokers are unaware of the
health risks.

In our nation, such is not the case. Despite extensively publicized
research and warnings, Americans refuse to acknowledge the perils of
tobacco use. The daunting question is, “Why?”

After a great deal of contemplation, I may have arrived at the answer.
When one delves into the stark reality of tobacco-related illness and
death, there can be only one reason for failing to heed the warnings.
American smokers simply must not believe the data. They’ve placed
their trust in “Big Brother” who has promised to protect them.

Any third grader would tell you that our government is big on
protecting us – that’s the main reason we pay taxes. After all, the US
has one of the most advanced militaries in the world to ward off
invasions, police forces and an FBI to ensure safety, an EPA to
preserve our environment, a Supreme Court to determine justice for
all, and an FDA to mandate the release of safe medications. I could
list many more examples, but I’m sure you get the point.

The underlying rationale for ongoing tobacco use may therefore be
based on one simple assumption: The world’s greatest nation would not
allow us to freely purchase cigarettes and tobacco related products if
they were bad for us. Seems like an open and shut case!

Unfortunately, the assumption is incorrect. Reality boils down to

The stark reality is that the US and other nations have resisted
tobacco control for economic purposes. Such sanctions have been
projected to result in the loss of jobs and tax revenues, not to
mention political support. Farmers would starve and our nation’s
economy would suffer. Right? … don’t believe it!

Tobacco farmers could initially be subsidized to grow other products.
We are no longer living in the economy of the 1800s. It’s time “we
the people” stopped believing the rhetoric that our nation’s economic
prosperity is built on a foundation of growing death weeds. It’s time
we started acknowledging the facts while taking responsibility for the

What we do not need is more rhetoric.

I was no less than disgusted when I read recently about the United
Nation’s latest plan called The Framework Convention on Tobacco
Control. Advertising bans, taxation and anti-smoking education
targeted at the world’s youth are presently being considered by the
UN. Their plan, however, is not slated to be adopted until 2003. Who
are we kidding?

Why should it take 3 years for the UN to develop tobacco controls. Is
the problem of such little significance that a team of experts cannot
be assembled to work diligently over the next few months to accomplish
such a goal? Worse yet, in the US we already have advertising bans,
tobacco taxes and educational programs. Wake up, UN … it isn’t

When will the nations of the world step up to the plate and do more
than pretend to care about the more than 10 million people who will
die each year of tobacco-related illnesses? A global effort is needed
now to put a halt to the killing. This is a wake up call America. We
don’t have time for the snooze alarm – Mind Over Matter!

© 1998,1999 Barry Bittman,
MD all rights reserved

Contact Dr. Bittman

Connection error. Connection fail between instagram and your server. Please try again
Written by Barry Bittman MD

Explore Wellness in 2021