Smoking - Tobacco, Nicotine, Cigarettes & Addiction

Drug Abuse and Addiction

Smoking has been around for centuries and was initially regarded as having great medicinal value. Today it's one of the biggest preventable causes of death and disease in the world.

It was not until the 20 th century that smoking became really popular among the masses. These days it's never out of the headlines. The health risks of smoking, the effects of passive smoking, smoking bans and law suits against tobacco companies are all big news.

Despite all the controversy, tobacco remains one of the most popular legal drugs in the world with approximately 650 million people lighting up each day and four million people dying of smoking related diseases each year.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that about one third of the world's male population smoke and so do about one in five 13-15-year-olds (50% of them for at least 15 years). East Asia has the highest smoking rate.

Smoking is declining in the richest nations thanks to extensive public health campaigns but it's on the increase in Third World and developing countries which are now easier targets for the tobacco giants. In America the number of smokers has nearly halved in 30 years although smoking still causes one in five deaths. In the developing world, according to WHO figures, the number of people who smoke increases by 3.4% each year.

Research has shown that tobacco and poverty are closely linked. Some studies show that in the poorest households in the poorest countries around 10% of household income is spent on tobacco, often at the expense of food and health.

Smoking and Advertising

Advertisers portray smokers as sexy and confident and that's something most people strive for, particularly teenagers and the poorest in any society. Tobacco is, of course, a multi billion dollar industry which in some parts of the world injects vital capital into the economy. The market is controlled by just a few big guns - the Americans, Japanese and British tobacco giants.

Tobacco firms are among the top ten advertisers in Asia and parts of Africa while in Eastern Europe foreign tobacco companies are the biggest advertisers.

In the UK tobacco advertising has been banned because of the associated health effects. But worldwide the tobacco companies are getting round such bans by spending more money on promotional items rather than direct media advertising.

Legal action against tobacco companies, on the grounds that the known dangers of cigarette health were kept under wraps for nearly 50 years, are becoming increasingly common. Tobacco firms stand accused of deliberately suppressing information about the addictive nature and serious health risks of their products. Lawyers acting on behalf of individuals and, in some cases, governments accuse the cigarette giants of ruthlessly targeting children in their advertising campaigns and knowingly causing death and disease on a massive scale.

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