WEDNESDAY, Oct. 12, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- There could be 18 million more tuberculosis (TB) cases and 40 million more TB deaths worldwide over the next 40 years if smoking rates stay at their current levels, a new study warns.
Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection of the lungs. Smoking raises the risk of contracting TB and of dying from the disease, explained lead author Dr. Sanjay Basu of the University of California, San Francisco.
The researchers used World Health Organization data to predict the number of TB infections and deaths among smokers between 2010 and 2050.
Along with their alarming finding about the increased numbers of smoking-related TB cases and deaths, the researchers also concluded that strict tobacco control that leads to a 1 percent annual drop in a country's smoking rates could reduce the death toll by 27 million over the next 40 years.
"Tobacco control is tuberculosis control," senior author Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF, said in a university news release.
Currently, nearly one-fifth of the world's population smokes tobacco or uses other tobacco products. That rate is expected to rise in many poor countries that don't restrict tobacco marketing.
Most of the world's smokers live in countries with high TB rates, Basu noted.
"The tobacco industry has spent decades working to convince developing countries as well as funding agencies that they should not 'waste' their time on tobacco control, but rather focus on infectious diseases like tuberculosis at the same time that the multinational tobacco companies were expanding aggressively in those very countries," Basu said in the news release.
"This paper shows that, because smoking and passive smoking facilitate the spread of TB and the transition from infection to active TB, reducing tobacco use is an important key to achieving the millennium development goals for TB," Basu said.
The millennium goal was to slash the TB death rate in half between 1990 and 2015 through programs focused on detection and treatment of active TB cases.
The study was published online Oct. 4 in the British Medical Journal.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about tuberculosis.