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Public EnemiesHarvey Chan

Public Enemies (continued)

Best Dressed

Tobacco

Joanna Cohen, PhD, MHSc, collects cigarette packages. With beveled edges and holograms, some exude sophistication. Others, named “Long Life” or branded with panda bears, convey health and innocence. “They don’t look like death,” observes Cohen, who holds the Bloomberg Professorship in Disease Prevention. Tobacco will claim 1 billion lives in the 21st century if current trends continue, says Cohen, director of the Institute for Global Tobacco Control. Smoking, she says, is a major underlying risk factor for death from heart attacks, strokes and cancers, to name-drop a few of the primary killers appearing on people’s death certificates.

Stats

Worldwide, almost 6 trillion cigarettes are produced—and consumed—annually. Every six seconds, someone dies because of tobacco products.

Trends

More than 40 countries now require graphic pictures on packages that convey tobacco’s dangers. The U.S. is a different story. Tobacco companies have sued over new package picture-warnings, which Cohen considers wholly inadequate to warn U.S. consumers.

Final Take

“Public health is hard enough; convincing people to change behaviors that may result in AIDS, for instance, or malaria, is difficult, despite [the fact] that no one’s cheering for the virus or financing the mosquito. With tobacco, we have multinational companies, the top six of which had combined profits upward of $35 billion in 2010, pushing to sell the products that kill one out of every two of long-term users.“

 

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