The secret killer


Did you know that:

  • Tobacco is the only widely available product which, when taken as instructed, kills?
  • Tobacco kills four million people each year, far more than malaria?
  • A cigarette has been described as a cleverly made product which gives you just enough nicotine to keep you addicted for life before killing you?

Tobacco companies are now targeting poorer countries to sell cigarettes, since people in richer countries are smoking less. This benefits the shareholders and owners of tobacco companies, but can kill the people who are influenced by their advertisements. Many of these people are so poor they can hardly afford to buy cigarettes and will never be able to pay for treatment when tobacco starts to kill them.

The World Health Organisation has had enough of this trade, which it says will eventually kill one in every two smokers. It is taking powerful action against those who manufacture and promote tobacco by establishing a ‘Tobacco-Free Initiative’. Find out more about this by contacting Gregory Hartl, Health Communications and Public Relations, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 791 4858 or E-mail:

Do you smoke? Does anyone in your family smoke? Do your neighbours smoke? Take your part in fighting tobacco by encouraging your friends and family to stop smoking and by joining any anti-tobacco pressure groups in your neighbourhood. If there isn’t such a group, why not start one? It will save lives.

In the time it has taken you to read this short article, tobacco will have killed 15 more people.

Contributed by Dr Ted Lankester, who works for Interhealth, and is a Footsteps committee member.