The half-trillion-dollar tobacco industry, likened to a terrorist movement, will kill up to a billion people worldwide this century due to smoking, unless the governments clamp down on the perpetrators, experts warn
Smoking is described as the biggest public health disaster in the history of the world as it kills more than half of smokers, mostly from cancer.
John Seffrin, chief executive of the American Cancer Society, who was speaking at a high-level forum of the world's 100 leading cancer experts gathered in the Swiss resort of Lugano, who issued a stark warning to governments worldwide.
Experts said governments must do far more than they have done to control the global tobacco industry, either by raising cigarette prices dramatically, outlawing tobacco marketing or by taxing the multinational profits of the big cigarette firms.
Scientists have calculated that smoking kills more than half of abusers, mostly from cancer, and yet despite it being the single biggest avoidable risk of premature death, there are about 30 million new smokers a year, they said.
Experts note that if current trends continue, with cigarette companies targeting the non-smoking populations of the developing world, then hundreds of millions of people will be dying of cancer in the second half of this century.
The experts called for an outright ban on cigarettes and for the tobacco industry to be treated as a terrorist movement for the way it targets new markets with a product that it knows to be deadly when used as intended.
"We have a major global industry producing a product that is lethal to at least half the people who use it. It will kill, if current trends continue, a billion people this century," said Seffrin.
"It killed 100 million in the last century and we thought that was outrageous, but this will be the biggest public health disaster in the history of the world, bar none. It all could be avoided if we could prevent the terroristic tactics of the tobacco industry in marketing its products to children," Seffrin told The Independent.
"There is a purposeful intent to market a product that they know full well will harm their customers and over time will kill more than half of them. The industry needs to be reined in and regulated," he told the paper.
Tobacco causes about 22 per cent of cancer deaths each year, worldwide, killing some 1.7 million people, with almost 1 million of them dying from lung cancer, the paper said.