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Jan 18, 2024, 1:35pm EST
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Tobacco use is down globally

Insights from NPR, The Associated Press, and The Guardian

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The News

The number of tobacco users worldwide dropped from 1.362 billion in 2000 to 1.245 billion in 2022, despite the world population rising by a third in that time. A third of adults used tobacco in 2000, the World Health Organization found, compared to 22% in 2020. That estimate includes anyone over 15 years old who chews tobacco, smokes cigarettes, or uses other tobacco products.

This drop doesn’t quite meet the goal countries around the world set: a 30% reduction of tobacco use from 2010 to 2025. Rates are currently down about 25% from 2010, WHO reported, and only 56 countries are on track to reach the 30% goal.

The highest regional rate is in Southeast Asia, with 27% of over-15s using tobacco. Europe is close behind at 25%, and the continent is expected to have the highest rate by 2030. U.S. rates hit 20% in 2022, falling from 30% in 2000.

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SIGNALS

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Tobacco control methods work, but countries are inconsistent with using them

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Sources:  
NPR, Nature

Efforts to reduce tobacco use — including providing smoke-free environments, restricting or banning marketing or advertising, adding health warnings, and increasing prices — have proven effective, an expert told NPR. “Not all countries are doing these things to the maximum extent possible. And I think that’s where we would see trends decline a little sharper,” tobacco control researcher Stella Bialous said.

These methods are especially effective when implemented simultaneously, according to a 2021 study in Nature, and tax and price increases are considered the most impactful tobacco-reduction policies. But employment of these methods is the exception, not the rule. Less than 15% of the global population is protected by strongly regulated tobacco advertising, Nature found.

Vaping is more common among US young adults, but there isn’t enough data on its harmful effects

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Sources:  
Gallup, The Associated Press

Vaping is more popular than smoking among young adults in the U.S., Gallup reported in 2023. Of 18- to 29-year-olds, 18% reported vaping vs. 10% who said they smoke cigarettes. And marijuana use surpasses both: since 2019, about 27% of young adults have said they smoke marijuana.

While the Food and Drug Administration and most scientists agree that vaping is overall less harmful than smoking, that doesn’t mean e-cigarettes are harmless, the Associated Press reported. Experts have called for more intensive studies on the phenomenon, citing a “remarkable lack of evidence” about the effects of vaping.

Big tobacco is targeting Africa, but it can still prevent an epidemic

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Sources:  
Voice of America, The Guardian

“We are seeing the tobacco industry targeting Africa the most,” WHO’s director of health promotion told Voice of America,saying the industry is trying to interfere with governments and policies. That’s because Africa is a mostly untapped market. WHO found the lowest prevalence of tobacco use on the continent, where smoking decreased from 18% in 2000 to less than 10% in 2022.

“As profits are choked off in the west, big tobacco has homed in on African communities,” researchers wrote for The Guardian. They argued that Africa still has time to prevent a tobacco epidemic like those seen in the U.S. and U.K., saying tobacco control methods could help the region “resist the powerful multinationals looking to profit at the expense of people’s health.”

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