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Studies Examine Cigarette Smuggling In Poor Countries, Deaths Due to Alcohol Abuse in Russia

A new report finds that “a growing global trade in black market cigarettes is killing tens of thousands of people a year, causing massive health problems and costing governments billions of pounds,” the Guardian reports. 

“Inefficient law enforcement, lax border controls and corruption among police and government officials mean smugglers find it easier to move large consignments of stolen or counterfeit cigarettes into countries in the developing world,” the newspaper writes. According to the Guardian, World Health Organization figures show that very poor households in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico and Egypt spend up to 15% of their incomes on tobacco products (Campbell, Guardian, 6/28).

“If the global illicit trade were eliminated, governments would gain at least $31 billion [in tax revenue], and from 2030 onwards would save over 160,000 lives a year,” the study authors write. Cigarette price would increase by 3.9%, with consumption falling by 2.0%. (Joossens et al., Framework Convention Alliance, 6/29).

The release of the report coincides with a meeting being held in Geneva “to negotiate the first worldwide protocol on illicit trade in tobacco products,” the newspaper writes. The study was published by the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease and written by researchers at the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies at Nottingham University, the University in Chicago, the American Cancer Society, and the Brussels-based Framework Convention Alliance. It was funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Guardian, 6/28).

Study Examines Russian Deaths To Alcohol

Fifty-two percent of deaths among Russians ages 15 to 54 have been caused by alcohol abuse “following the Soviet collapse,” according to a recent study published in the journal Lancet, the AP/Wall Street Journal reports.

The findings are “based on a survey of almost 49,000 deaths from 1990 to 2001 among young adult and middle-age Russians in three industrial towns in western Siberia, which had typical 1990s Russian mortality patterns,” the newspaper writes. Compared to Russia, alcohol abuse causes less than 4% of deaths world-wide, according to the paper.

“Some researchers have blamed the crumbling of the Soviet health-care system, increased smoking, changes in diet or a loss of jobs that raised stress levels for the mysterious rise in deaths,” while others “pin the blame squarely on increased drinking, which the report says roughly doubled in Russia from 1987 to 1994 — from the equivalent of about five liters of pure alcohol annually to about 10.5 liters” (AP/Wall Street Journal, 6/26).