The number of women and men who use tobacco products has been steadily declining for years. In a new report, the UN health agency hailed the beginning decline as a “powerful shift in the global tobacco epidemic”
“For the first time, the number of tobacco users is declining worldwide,” Dr. Ruediger Krech, director of the Department of Health Promotion at the World Health Organization (WHO), told. “Reductions in global tobacco use demonstrate that when governments introduce and strengthen their comprehensive evidence-based actions, smoking is no longer considered a socially acceptable norm,” Dr. Krech added.
For the past two decades, global tobacco use has been slowly dwindling, from 1.397 billion users in 2000 to 1.337 billion in 2018. This means around 60 million fewer people were using tobacco products, even as the global populations has swelled. But that reduction has been strongly driven by declines in the number of women and girls using tobacco products, WHO said. Over the same period, the number of male tobacco users rose. But men are finally beginning to kick the habit, the new report says.
The new report shows that the number of male tobacco users has stopped growing and is projected to decline by more than 1 million fewer male users come 2020 (or 1.091 billion) compared to 2018 levels, and 5 million less by 2025 (1.087 billion).
“Declines in tobacco use amongst males mark a turning point in the fight against tobacco,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said.
“For many years now we had witnessed a steady rise in the number of males using deadly tobacco products. But now, for the first time, we are seeing a decline in male use, driven by governments being tougher on the tobacco industry,” the WHO Director-General emphasized.
At the same time, the WHO chief committed the organization to continue working closely with countries “to maintain this downward trend”. Despite such gains, progress in meeting the global target set by governments to cut tobacco use by 30 percent by 2025 remains off track.
WHO’s South East Asian Region has the highest rates of tobacco use, of more than 45 percent of males and females aged 15 years and over, but the trend is projected to decline rapidly to similar levels seen in the European and Western Pacific regions of around 25 percent by 2025.
Fifteen countries in the Americas are on track to reach the 30 percent tobacco use reduction target by 2030, making it the best performing of WHO’s six regions.
As for Europe, the average smoking rate is 26 percent of the total population. But these data vary by country and by gender. For example, in Azerbaijan, the number of smokers – one and a half million – which is only 19 percent of the population. Such low comparative statistics is partly due to the fact that there are only 0.2 percent of women smokers, while men smokers are 39 percent.
In Russia, the smoking trend is 41 percent of men and 13 percent of women. In Ukraine, 39 percent of smokers is among men, and almost 8 percent is among women.
According to the results of the anti-tobacco campaign, Turkmenistan tops the list of tobacco-free countries of the world. According to the World Health Organization, only 3.4 percent of the country’s population uses tobacco products, and by 2025, the government set a goal to be completely tobacco-free country.