Tobacco Death Clock

ASH Australia media release November 4, 2008

Tobacco death clock hits 40 million for decade

… as tobacco companies gloat over soaring profits from misery

The tobacco death clock* unveiled in Geneva by the World Health Organisation has reached a staggering 40 million tobacco-related deaths since 1999 – while tobacco companies continue to gloat over soaring profits from their lethal products.

Tobacco smoking and passive smoking is killing around five million people a year – greater than the combined death toll from HIV, TB and malaria.

While 15,000 of the deaths are Australians, most of the toll is being inflicted upon people in low to middle income countries where tobacco control laws are too weak to counter the aggressive tactics of tobacco companies.

Preventable early deaths from tobacco-related cancers, heart and vascular, respiratory and other diseases have reached 40 million since the start of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) negotiations in 1999.

Meanwhile the tobacco industry continues to rack up huge profits. British American Tobacco, one of the world’s “big two”, has just recorded a third quarter net profit increase of  9.5 percent – mostly from its push into less regulated low and middle income countries.

BAT’s worldwide quarterly revenue was up 25.5%. Its net profit in the three months to September 30 was AUD$1.6b.

The company is reported as saying its expansion into more emerging markets, with their favourable exchange rates and growing sales, helped offset falling sales in wealthier countries.

Says Anne Jones, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health and a consultant for the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease working in China:

Tobacco companies are exploiting and targeting people in countries, such as China, India, Russia and Indonesia where unethical promotion is rife, smoking in workplaces is widespread – even in hospitals – and laws are too weak to protect people.

The growing epidemic is a stark reminder that all parties to the FCTC, including Australia, must adopt stronger and more effective laws for halting industry interference in public health policies, implementing effective smokefree laws and mass media campaigns and comprehensively banning all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

* see