Tobacco Use Growing Worldwide, Spurs Need for Global Policy Change

A study published in the British medical journal, The Lancet, has reported that approximately half of the men in many developing nations are using tobacco, and women in the same regions are taking up smoking at a much earlier age, according to what’s been deemed the “largest-ever international study on tobacco use.”  

As reported by CNN, to conduct the two-year study, researchers gathered a representative sample to estimate tobacco use among 3 billion people worldwide. In 14 developing nations, an average of 49 percent of men and 11 percent of women use tobacco, the majority of whom are smokers.

As a result of the findings, researchers saw an urgent need for policy change regarding tobacco in low- and middle-income countries. Lead researcher Gary Giovini believes the burden of tobacco use is shifting, and that “the tobacco epidemic is taking different forms in different countries.” He also noted that while chewing tobacco and other smokeless forms are part of the issue, manufactured cigarettes are the primary problem.

Among developing countries, Russia saw the highest numbers with 60 percent of men and 22 percent of women using tobacco. China was in second with 53 percent of men and 2 percent of women using tobacco. Ukraine was the next highest with 50 percent of men and 11 percent women using tobacco. And Turkey settled in fourth with 48 percent of men and 15 percent of women using tobacco. 

This news is particularly alarming considering the number of lives tobacco continues to claim. The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement warning that “if current trends continue, it will cause up to one billion deaths in the 21st century.”

Tobacco industries are very aggressive when government regulations are not in place. An example of this is in Egypt, where smoking rates saw an increase as a result of a recent revolution. Edouard Tursan D’Espaignet of the WHO’s tobacco control program told CNN that government regulations limiting smoking in areas throughout the country crumbled last year after the demise of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, noting ‘the tobacco industry walked in very aggressively to market its product amid the chaos.’

Reports speculate the reason for this rise is smoking is that it’s being viewed as a way to publicly express being free of Mubarak’s regime.

While the ultimate responsibility of quitting lies in the hands of the smoker him or herself, this study sheds like on the fact that the tobacco industry is targeting young people, especially women, as well as countries that are less able to confront their aggressive marketing schemes.

Of course, the companies’ rebuttals include anything from seeking out opportunities to develop business, to selling products in accordance with local market regulations, as justification for their sales tactics.

In any case, we know that smoking causes immediate harm to the body, and tobacco use continues to be an international problem that’s going to require a lot more effort, education and personal realization before these trends will ever reverse.

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