* Tobacco control measures studied in 41 countries
* Raising taxes on cigarettes, smoke-free areas save lives
* Measures are "win-win" for health, public coffers - WHO
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, July 1Anti-smoking measures including
higher taxes on tobacco products, bans on adverts and controls
on lighting up in public places could prevent tens of millions
of premature deaths across the world, researchers said on
Similar steps taken by Turkey, Romania and 39 other
countries between 2007 and 2010 were already saving lives, the
independent study published by the World Health Organization
"If the progress attained by these ... countries were
extended globally, tens of millions of smoking-related deaths
could be averted," Professor David Levy, the study's lead author
from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, said in
the WHO's monthly bulletin.
Wider use of the controls could also lead to lower health
care costs and higher birth weights for babies, he added.
Tobacco-control measures already introduced in the 41
countries, that also included Pakistan, Argentina and Italy,
were on track to persuade an estimated 15 million people not to
smoke, the study said. That would prevent around 7.4 million
smoking-related deaths by 2050, it added.
The researchers found the most effective measures were
increasing taxes and banning smoking in offices, restaurants and
other public places. The first method would prevent 3.5 million
smoking-attributable deaths, while the second would prevent 2.5
million, they said.
"If anything it is an under-estimate," Dr. Douglas Bettcher,
director of WHO's department of noncommunicable diseases, told
Reuters in an interview in his Geneva office.
"It is a win-win situation for health and finance ministries
to generate revenues that have a major impact on improving
health and productivity," he added.
Turkey's steps led to a sharp drop in smoking rates to 41.5
percent among men in 2012 from 47.9 percent in 2008, he said.
Six million people die every year from smoking and the toll
is projected to rise to eight million by 2030, according to the
WHO, a United Nations agency waging war on "Big Tobacco".
The WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which
came into force in 2005, lays down measures to curb smoking and
tobacco use. About 175 countries have ratified the pact, shunned
by others that are home to large tobacco companies, including
the United States, Switzerland and Indonesia.
Measures include raising taxes on tobacco products to 75
percent of the final retail price, smoke-free air policies,
warnings on cigarette packages, bans on advertising, promotion
and sponsorship, and offering treatments to kick the habit.
"We know that in many poor countries, the poor spend a lot
of money on tobacco. They would be able to use it for nutrition
and education which is a huge opportunity cost," said Dr.
Edouard Tursan d'Espaignet, from WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens)