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May 30, 2021

Number of smokers reaches all-time high of 1.1b: study

 
May 30, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Smoking killed almost 8 million people in 2019 and the number of smokers rose as the habit was picked up by young people around the world, according to new research.

A study published in the Lancet has said that efforts to curb the habit had been outstripped by population growth with 150 million more people smoking in the nine years from 1990, reaching an all-time high of 1.1 billion. The study’s authors said governments need to focus on reducing the uptake of smoking among young people, as 89% of new smokers were addicted by the age of 25 but beyond that age were unlikely to start, foreign media reported. “Young people are particularly vulnerable to addiction, and with high rates of cessation remaining elusive worldwide, the tobacco epidemic will continue for years to come unless countries can dramatically reduce the number of new smokers starting each year,” said the study’s lead author Marissa Reitsma, a researcher at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Though the prevalence of smoking has reduced globally over the past three decades, it increased for men in 20 countries and for women in 12. Just 10 countries made up two-thirds of the world’s smoking population: China, India, Indonesia, the US, Russia, Bangladesh, Japan, Turkey, Vietnam and the Philippines. One in three tobacco smokers (341 million) live in China.

In 2019, smoking was associated with 1.7 million deaths from ischaemic heart disease, 1.6 million deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 1.3 million deaths from tracheal, bronchus and lung cancer, and nearly 1 million deaths from stroke. Previous studies have shown that at least half of long-term smokers will die from causes directly linked to smoking, and that smokers have an average life expectancy 10 years lower than those who have never smoked.

The research examined trends in 204 countries and was produced as part of the Global Burden of Disease consortium of researchers, which studies health issues that lead to death and disability.

According to the study, half of all the countries had made no progress in stopping uptake among 15- to 24-year-olds and the average age for someone to start was 19, when it is legal in most places.

Reitsma said the evidence suggested that if young people faced delays in picking up the habit they would be less likely to end up becoming smokers at all.

“Ensuring that young people remain smoke-free through their mid-20s will result in radical reductions in smoking rates for the next generation,” said Reitsma.

Despite 182 countries signing a 2005 convention on tobacco control, enforcing policies to reduce smoking had been varied. Researchers said taxation was the most effective policy but there was a significant discrepancy between the high cost of a packet of cigarettes in developed countries and a significantly lower costs in low- and middle-income countries.

The study’s co-author, Vin Gupta, said there needed to be stronger commitment to tackling smoking, as well as products such as flavoured cigarettes and e-cigarettes that could be enticing young people.

“Despite progress in some countries, tobacco industry interference and waning political commitment have resulted in a large and persistent gap between knowledge and action on global tobacco control,” said Gupta.

“Bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship must extend to internet-based media, but only one in four countries have comprehensively banned all forms of direct and indirect advertising.”