This was stated in a study published in the Bulletin of the world body and made available to the Ghana News Agency in Accra.
The study is one of the first to look at the effect of measures on lives saved since the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) was established in 2005.
“It is important because it demonstrates the success of the WHO FCTC in reducing tobacco use and, thus, saving lives,” it said.
In 2008, WHO identified six evidence-based tobacco control measures that were the most effective in reducing tobacco use, and started to provide technical support to help countries fulfil their WHO FCTC obligations.
Known as “MPOWER”, the measures correspond to one or more of the demand reduction provisions included in the WHO FCTC including monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies, protecting people from tobacco smoke and offering help for people to quit tobacco use.
Others are warning people about the dangers of tobacco, enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and raising taxes on tobacco.
The authors of the study did a modeling exercise and projected the number of premature deaths that would be averted by 2050 through the implementation of one or more of the measures.
The study focussed on the 41 countries, two of which are not parties to the WHO FCTC, that had implemented the demand reduction measures at “the highest level of achievement”.
“These countries represented nearly one billion people or one seventh of the world’s population of 6.9 billion in 2008. The total number of smokers in those countries was nearly 290 million in 2007.
“Of the 41 countries, 33 have put in place one MPOWER measure and the remaining eight have implemented more than one.
“Given that one in every two smokers dies prematurely from smoking-related diseases, the authors calculated that the selected MPOWER measures taken in the 41 countries would prevent the premature deaths of half of the 14.8 million smokers who quit – that is 7.4 million people – by 2050.
“Almost half of the averted deaths would be attributable to increased cigarette taxes (3.5 million), “the study showed.
It said the total number of deaths prevented, as calculated, did not take into account that some smokers would have quit in the absence of strong tobacco control policies.
It also omitted the additional premature deaths that would later occur among young people who would have started smoking in the absence of the policies.
The FCTC was developed in response to the globalisation of the tobacco epidemic.
Since the FCTC came into force in 2005, 175 countries and the European Union have become parties to it.
It is the most rapidly and widely embraced treaty in the United Nations history, covering almost 90 per cent of the world’s population.