Tobacco use declining globally, despite industry efforts, WHO says

Tobacco use declining globally, despite industry efforts, WHO says
25.01.2024

While global consumption of tobacco is declining, trends indicate that the goal of a 30 per cent reduction will not be met by 2025 as initially planned.

Tobacco use is declining globally, despite the industry’s efforts to jeopardise progress by pursuing profits, according to an annual report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

There are currently 1.25 billion adult tobacco users worldwide – that’s 19 million fewer smokers than recorded two years ago.

Since 2000, following mass campaigns and the set up of anti-smoking initiatives, the WHO recorded a steady drop in the number of smokers in the 21st century. 

In 2022, it found that 1 in 5 adults smoked, compared to 1 in 3 in 2000.

European region ‘a bit of a problem’

The report highlighted that 150 countries are successfully reducing tobacco use.

Brazil and the Netherlands are seeing success after they implemented MPOWER tobacco control measures, with Brazil making a relative reduction of 35 per cent since 2010 and the Netherlands on the verge of reaching the 30 per cent target.

To continue in the right direction, WHO is urging countries to continue putting tobacco control policies in place and fight against tobacco industry interference.

However, according to Dr Rüdiger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at the organisation, on the whole, the European region is slow to give up tobacco. Use rates among women in the region are more than double the global average and are reducing much slower than in all other zones.

“The region that is a bit of a problem is the European region where especially women are on the increase in some parts, in some countries, or at very high levels still of tobacco users,” he says.

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Currently, the WHO South-East Asian Region has the highest percentage of the population using tobacco at 26.5 percent with the European Region not far behind at 25.3 percent.

By 2030, the WHO European Region is projected to have the highest smoking rates globally with a prevalence of just over 23 percent. 

E-cigarettes and children: a dangerous mix

Despite positive signs in adult tobacco consumption trends, the WHO is sounding the alarm on children.

While the 2024 report noted a decrease in adult tobacco consumption, it highlights that there were alarming amounts of child and adolescent use of e-cigarettes. The document estimates that there are at least 37 million children aged 13-15 currently using some form of tobacco.

Over the last three years in the UK, there has been a 150 per cent increase in child use of e-cigarettes. 

Since most e-cigarettes and vapes are purchased through the Internet, the WHO recommends ensuring that these devices are no longer available to children.

To protect future generations and ensure that tobacco use continues to decline, WHO will dedicate this year’s World No Tobacco Day to Protecting children from tobacco industry interference.

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