New research highlights smoking epidemic

The number of people dying from smoking-related lung cancer over the next two decades is expected to double, if current smoking habits in Asia remain unchanged.

New research has revealed the incredible impact of smoking in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly among highly populous countries such as China, South Korea and Bangladesh.

“If developing countries in the region continue to smoke at the current rate, twice the amount of lung cancer deaths due to smoking will occur. The benefits of quitting are enormous and smoking cessation urgently needs to be embraced by governments in the region”, said author Dr Alexandra Martiniuk, The George Institute.

Smoking kills around five million people each year worldwide. While many developed countries are reaping benefits of smoking cessation initiatives, the burden of smoking is increasing in the Asia-Pacific region, where one third of the world’s 1.3 billion smokers live. The World Bank has called for new research to support smoking cessation initiatives in low- to middle-income countries where the impact of smoking is greatest.

This new research will help policy-makers plan for healthcare services, particularly in countries such as China where 350 million smokers reside.

In developing countries, smokers who develop lung cancer face late diagnosis and less effective treatment options compared to developed countries, and therefore even fewer people survive this devastating disease. The implementation of cost-effective programs and policies to reduce the number of people who smoke is crucial in these countries. In Australia and the US, survival rates are up to 80%, compared to 9% in the Asia-Pacific.

“Adopting the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and following through with its guidelines - which has shown to be hugely successful in other developing countries - would be an ideal first step for countries aiming to curb their local epidemics of smoking. Governments need to sign up to this framework”, added lead author Dr Martiniuk.

However in some of these countries there is still a lack of essential information on the number of people who smoke. Basic information should be collected in order to assess the current burden of smoking and also to be able to assess the impact of tobacco control policies over time.