Up to 1-in-5 tuberculosis (TB) deaths attributed to tobacco use. Bobby Ramakant

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2010 is Year of the Lungs
With the 41st Union World Conference on Lung Health hardly two weeks ahead of us, the issues which emerged at the 39th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Paris, France, where CNS was present, are worth re-visiting. With 50% of all deaths from lung disease linked to tobacco use, control of the tobacco related substances was high on the agenda of the 39th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Paris, France (2007). This year 2010, is also declared as Year of the Lung.
"Up to one in five TB (tuberculosis) deaths could be avoided if TB patients were not smokers," Dr Nils Billo, Executive Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), had said in 2007 Union conference.
Smoking is also associated with recurrent TB and people with the disease who smoke have a higher risk of mortality than non-smokers with TB. The scaling-up of tobacco cessation services for people with TB is therefore a clear priority.
Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the Stop TB Department of WHO had discussed the Practical Approach to Lung health (PAL) with delegates at the 2007 39th Union World Conference on Lung Health. The approach focused on comprehensive treatment for all respiratory conditions and diseases, not just TB.
About 80% of smokers live in low and middle-income countries and 520 million people will die from tobacco-related illnesses in the next 50 years, according to available data. By 2030 the annual number of deaths from tobacco will increase from five million to more than eight million.
The Union has helped raise awareness of tobacco hazards, encouraging its partners to play an active role in tobacco control and recognize the link between tobacco and TB.
It has also promoted effective tobacco control policies through technical resources, training a new generation of managers and practitioners and supporting effective programs through grants.
WHO and The Union had published and released a joint monograph on TB and tobacco control in 2007 and key elements of the policy include the identification and offers of counselling for smokers assessed for TB or other respiratory diseases.
The monograph also called for the operation of smoke-free public health centres and the training of health workers to deliver smoking cessation treatment.
Concerns over the high rates of tobacco use among doctors and healthcare providers in high TB-burdened countries were also raised during discussions at the conference. In some regions more than 50% of healthcare workers use the drug, making it difficult for them to play a genuine role in tobacco cessation programs.

(The author is the Director of CNS Stop-TB Initiative, also serves as a CNS Policy Adviser and received the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General's WNTD Award 2008. He writes extensively on health and development for Citizen News Service (CNS). Email: bobby@citizen-news.org, website: www.citizen-news.org)

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