It is now generally recognized that tobacco consumption results in high mortality and morbidity. Tobacco-related diseases are the single most important cause of preventable deaths in the world. Smoking and passive smoking cause more than 20 major categories of fatal and disabling disease, including lung and other cancers. It is projected that tobacco use will cause 8.4 million deaths by 2020, 70% of which will occur in developing countries. Of the 100 million projected tobacco-related deaths over the next 20 years, about half will be of people in the productive ages of 35-69. In general, 9% of women in developing countries and about 22% in developed countries currently smoke. Without robust and sustained initiatives, these figures are expected to rise dramatically, with today's 250 million women smokers rising to 340 million by 2020.
Just as infectious diseases know no geographic or political boundaries, individual countries are incapable of effectively containing tobacco consumption. Tobacco companies have increased marketing activities in developing countries, where about 900 million smokers live, accounting for 70% of global consumption. There is growing evidence to suggest a link between tobacco consumption, free trade and tobacco-related foreign direct investment (FDI). This trend is exacerbated by transnational tobacco companies' strategies to enter emerging-market economies.
Many of the forces that support globalization, such as the opening up of a country's markets, allow the tobacco problem to increase. As a result, the situation requires international cooperation if it is to be controlled. Cross-border challenges include:
- Advances in communications technologies, which facilitate aggressive global marketing and promotion of tobacco products, e.g. via the Internet and/or on satellite television.
- Cigarette smuggling across national borders.
- Increased trade liberalization and liberalization of investment rules, which have provided tobacco companies with the opportunity to expand their operations.
The international community is now taking action on such issues through the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.