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Clin Lung Cancer. 2004 May;5(6):371-6.

The global smoking epidemic: a history and status report.

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Department of History, Stanford University, CA 94305, USA.


The World Health Organization estimates that tobacco causes approximately 5 million deaths annually worldwide, a number expected to double by 2025. Cigarette consumption grew from only a few billion per year in 1900 to present values of approximately 5.5 trillion worldwide. Historical causes for the rise of smoking include the invention of flue curing, safety matches, and cigarette rolling machines, but also the distribution of cigarettes to soldiers during World War I, mass marketing, the failure of governments to limit consumption, and the duplicitous denial of hazards by manufacturers. Cancers of the lip, throat, and tongue were linked to tobacco as early as the 18th century, but a lung cancer hazard from smoking was not suspected until the first decade of the 20th century. Epidemiologic evidence began to emerge in the 1920s, and by the 1950s, the causal link with cigarette smoking was well established. Epidemiologic studies, animal experiments, and studies demonstrating pathologic changes in lung tissues at autopsy were 3 pivotal sources of evidence. However, the tobacco industry refused to concede the reality of tobacco hazards until the late 1990s. Instead, the industry sought to target physicians and others with its message of "no proof," using subtle techniques of deception, including the funding of spurious research, duplicitous press releases, propaganda efforts directed at physicians, and the employment of historians to construct exculpatory narratives. The World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control promises to standardize global tobacco control measures, including policies to limit smuggling. Effective means of reducing tobacco use include counter-advertising, increased taxation, smoke-free workplace legislation, and litigation against the industry.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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