The World Health Organization is calling on world leaders to do more to reduce tobacco use, warning in a new report that global deaths from smoking could exceed 8 million a year over the next two decades, with the vast majority of those deaths occuring in developing countries.
Calling tobacco "the single most preventable cause of death in the world today," the new WHO Report on The Global Tobacco Epidemic looks at world tobacco use and government efforts to combat smoking.
While the WHO report does not single out tobacco companies by name, some anti-tobacco groups have sounded the alarm about aggressive expansion in emerging markets by cigarette makers like Altria's Philip Morris International unit, which is set to be spun off as an independent company in March. Critics worry the spinoff will put PMI beyond the reach of strict U.S. tobacco regulations. PMI has a 15 percent global market share, and as a stand alone company will be largest private cigarette maker in the world, behind state-owned China National Tobacco.