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Tobacco use is top cause of death in China

BEIJING - Tobacco use killed almost 6 million people last year and was the top cause of death in China, the world’s biggest cigarette market, a report by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation said Wednesday.

Four of every five deaths were in low- and middle-income countries, and 1 billion people may die from tobacco use and exposure this century if current trends continue, according to the report, released in Singapore.

Tobacco-related deaths almost tripled in the past decade amid a 17 percent jump in cigarette production and increased affordability of the cancer-causing products in low-income nations. The tobacco industry generates about $500 billion in annual sales, with the six biggest companies making a combined profit of $35.1 billion in 2010, said Judith Mackay, who co-wrote the report.

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“The tobacco industry is among the top-10 most influential industries in the world because of its sheer magnitude of wealth and sales,’’ Mackay, a physician and adviser to the World Lung Foundation and the World Health Organization, said n Tuesday.

Governments have been trying to implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global treaty endorsed by more than 174 countries and recommended by the Geneva-based United Nations agency, to curb smoking.

Producers have been increasing efforts to combat those measures with legal challenges in every region of the world, according to the World Lung Foundation.

These include objections to smoke-free legislation, and opposition to advertising bans and graphic warnings of disease on cigarette packs.