26 September 2006

From developed to developing countries

Tobacco is one of the rare lethal products legally and widely traded at the global level. Tobacco products have a transnational dimension when it comes to smuggling, global advertising and promotion, or international cooperation on information sharing. The tobacco epidemic has thus become globalized, and its globalization restricts the capacity of countries to regulate tobacco through domestic legislation alone.

Tobacco use has also a development dimension. In all the countries where data are available, tobacco use has been shown to be very closely related to poverty. Tobacco consumption is moving from developed to developing countries. Tobacco use also worsens the poverty of individuals and countries. At the individual and household levels, money spent on tobacco has a very high opportunity cost. For the poor, money spent on tobacco is money not spent on basic necessities, such as food, shelter, education and health care. Poor tobacco consumers also tend to be more at risk of falling sick, which can exacerbate a household's financial situation.

At the national level, countries suffer huge economic losses owing to high health care costs, as well as lost productivity caused by tobacco-related illnesses and premature deaths. Most countries are net importers of tobacco products and lose millions of dollars a year in precious foreign exchange from these imports. Tobacco also degrades their natural environment. Based on the facts set out above, tobacco is clearly linked with disease, poverty, hunger and gender issues.

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