Tobacco Use Increasing In Developing Regions, Dropping Elsewhere
August 17, 2012

Tobacco Use Increasing In Developing Regions, Dropping Elsewhere

John Neumann for - Your Universe Online

Roughly half of adult men in many developing nations use tobacco; the number of women doing the same are increasingly taking up smoking at an earlier age than they used to, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), the largest-ever international study on tobacco use.

The comprehensive survey, which covered enough representative samples to estimate tobacco use among 3 billion people, of tobacco use demonstrates an urgent need for policy change in low- and middle-income countries, according to the University at Buffalo professor who led the research.

Lead researcher Gary Giovino, whose report was published in the British medical journal The Lancet, explains the results are a disturbing picture of global tobacco use influenced by powerful and manipulative pro-tobacco forces.

While 100 million lives were lost prematurely due to tobacco use in the last century, the study notes that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that if current trends continue, the number of preventable, premature deaths in this century will be far greater.

“In the absence of effective actions, about one billion people worldwide will die prematurely in the next century from tobacco use,” says Giovino, “and most of those deaths and the healthcare and economic costs that come with them, will be borne by lower- and middle-income countries.”

The study, conducted between 2008 and 2010, found that across 14 developing nations, 49 percent of men and 11 percent of women used tobacco. Most of them smoked -- 41 percent of men and 5 percent of women, reports Josh Levs for CNN.

Numbers were highest in Russia, where 60 percent of men and 22 percent of women used tobacco; China, where 53 percent of men and 2 percent of women were tobacco users; Ukraine, where 50 percent of men and 11 percent of women used tobacco, and Turkey, where 48 percent of men and 15 percent of women used tobacco.

In some countries, smoking rates may now be even higher than they were in 2010, WHO officials say. “One place where we know it´s gone up, unfortunately, is Egypt -- as a result of the revolution,” said Edouard Tursan D´Espaignet of WHO´´s tobacco control program.

The GATS study found 38 percent of men and less than 1 percent of women smoked in Egypt as of 2010, Reuters reported. “In many countries, particularly eastern Europe and China, the market is probably saturated” among men,Giovino said. “We can see the tobacco industry is targeting young people, and they´re targeting women.”

Previous studies done in several countries found that women who smoke generally start later than men, the GATS study found the opposite. “Alarmingly, this study shows that -- in most countries we surveyed -- age of smoking initiation for women might now be approaching the young ages at which men begin,” the report says.

Still, the overwhelming majority of tobacco use worldwide is by men. “Industry marketing campaigns traditionally have targeted men,” says Giovino. Also, “social norms tend to make smoking socially less acceptable -- and even unacceptable in many countries -- among women.”

What is needed, Giovino continued, is the deliberate allocation of more resources to fully implement tobacco control plans.

Strategies such as the MPOWER programs of the WHO that monitor tobacco use, protect nonsmoker and offer help with quitting. Some of the efforts include warning people about the dangers of tobacco use via large, graphic warning labels on tobacco packages and hard-hitting mass media campaigns, enforce advertising restrictions, and raise taxes on tobacco products.