Consensus and complacency : the failure of tobacco control in Austria
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, accounting for about 9,000 to 14,000 deaths in Austria annually. Tobacco is a major health hazard not only to its users, but also to exposed non-smokers who experience a higher risk of smoking-related diseases. Yet, tobacco is also an important economic commodity seeking ever increasing markets, and opposi- tion to regulation is very strong. The need to control its use is increasingly apparent from the growing numbers of smokers worldwide, in particular among very young people and women, the growing evidence of the effect of smoking on health of both smokers and non-smokers, and also the growing awareness of the hazards of environmental tobacco smoke. This study examines tobacco policies in Austria, in particular in the context of European Union policies. A review of tobacco industry documents, literature on tobacco control measures in European and overseas countries, EU laws, and activities of the WHO and the EU with regard to tobacco control is followed by a description of smoking patterns in Austria, including new analyses of existing data, and an analysis of the health situation in Austria, with a focus on smoking-related diseases and mortality and a cohort analysis on lung cancer mortality. This leads to a critical analysis of tobacco control measures in Austria. The study concludes with an overall analysis of Austrian tobacco policy, seeking the reasons why so little has been done and the forces and key actors involved, and offers recommendations for further action. The main findings are that party-political ties, economic considerations, and close relationships between the Austrian tobacco industry, the government, and leading "anti-smoking advocates", experts and scientists have hampered the development of effective tobacco control policy in Austria. Compared to many other European and overseas countries, Austria's tobacco policy lacks both political will and the implementation of effective measures to reduce smoking preva- lence and to protect non-smokers from the hazards of tobacco smoke.