KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 19 — For the first time, the World Health Organization (WHO) projected that the number of males around the world using tobacco is on the decline.
WHO cited its new report on global tobacco trends that found the number of male tobacco users has stopped growing and is predicted to drop by over one million fewer male users come next year (or 1.091 billion) compared to 2018 levels, and five million less by 2025 (1.087 billion).
“Declines in tobacco use amongst males mark a turning point in the fight against tobacco,” said WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement.
“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. WHO will continue working closely with countries to maintain this downward trend.”
According to the WHO global report on trends in prevalence of tobacco use 2000-2025 third edition, overall global tobacco use has fallen during nearly the past 20 years, from 1.397 billion in 2000 to 1.337 billion in 2018, or by approximately 60 million people
This has been largely driven by reductions in the number of females using these products (346 million in 2000 down to 244 million in 2018, or a fall of over around 100 million).
Over the same period, male tobacco use had risen by around 40 million, from 1.050 billion in 2000 to 1.093 billion in 2018 (or 82 per cent of the world’s current 1.337 billion tobacco users), but the WHO report also showed that the number of male tobacco users has stopped growing.
By 2020, WHO projected there will be 10 million fewer tobacco users, male and female, compared to 2018, and another 27 million less by 2025, amounting to 1.299 billion. Some 60 per cent of countries have been experiencing a decline in tobacco use since 2010.
Despite such gains, progress in meeting the global target set by governments to cut tobacco use by 30 per cent by 2025 remains off track. Based on current progress, a 23 per cent reduction will be achieved by 2025. Only 32 countries are currently on track to reach the 30 per cent reduction target.
“Fewer people are using tobacco, which is a major step for global public health,” said Dr Vinayak Prasad, head of WHO’s tobacco control unit.
“But the work is not yet done. Without stepped up national action, the projected fall in tobacco use still won’t meet global reduction targets. We must never let up in the fight against Big Tobacco.”
WHO’s South East Asian Region has the highest rates of tobacco use, of more than 45 per cent 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 per cent by 2025.
Every year, more than eight million people die from tobacco use, approximately half of its users. More than seven million of those deaths are from direct tobacco use, while around 1.2 million are due to non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
The WHO report covers use of cigarettes, pipes, cigars, waterpipes, smokeless tobacco products (like bidis, cheroots and kretek) and heated tobacco products. But electronic cigarettes are not covered in the report.