A single cigarette sold on a street corner may not cost a lot; however, the overall costs of smoking are huge.
First, consider the cost of human life. The World Health Organization says about 10 people die of a tobacco-linked disease every minute. That rate adds up to almost six million people dying from such diseases every year.
The majority of these preventable deaths happen in low-income and middle-income countries. The World Bank says each of these countries has a gross national income of less than $12,746.
For most people, stopping smoking is hard. Many began smoking as teenagers. They are used to it. Also, tobacco contains the powerful drug nicotine.
Studies show people who want to stop smoking can do so with different treatments. Some get help from electronic cigarettes, medicine or nicotine patches that reduce one’s desire for the drug.
Dr. Nancy Rigotti works at Massachusetts General Hospital in the United States. She says she finds that medicine and counseling services together work best of all.
Other experts and former smokers offer even more effective advice: if you are considering starting smoking, don’t.
Illegal tobacco trade
But smoking costs more than the life of an individual. It can affect the health of an entire country.
The World Health Organization says low-income countries depend heavily on taxes from cigarettes. They use the money, in part, to pay the costs of health care for tobacco-related diseases.
But the illegal trade in tobacco products is further testing the economies of low-income countries. WHO officials say the illegal trade earns about $31 billion every year.
Douglas Bettcher is the director of the WHO’s Department for the Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases. He calls the illegal trade a monster with many heads.
He says the trade enables young people to buy cigarettes at low prices, become addicted to tobacco and suffer serious health problems. It also increases crime and reduces tax revenue.
“It feeds the proliferation of transnational organized crime, another head of this multi-headed monster, and it drains resources, taxes, revenue from the purses of ministries of finance, governmental coffers.”
The World Health Organization is urging United Nations member states to sign a treaty to end the illegal trade in tobacco products. Eight countries have approved the treaty. But the approval of 32 other countries is needed for it to become international law.
If the treaty succeeds, governments could put people who trade illegal tobacco products in jail – another cost to countries’ budgets.
I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
VOA’s Carol Pearson and reporter Lisa Schlein wrote parts of this story. Kelly Jean Kelly adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
patches – n. pieces of material that contain a drug (the material is worn on your skin, enabling the drug to slowly enter your body over a long period of time)
non-communicable – adj. not able to be passed to another person
monster – n. a powerful thing that cannot be controlled and that causes many problems
proliferation – n. rapid increase in number or amount; spread