Global study finds 'alarming patterns' of tobacco use

Sat, Aug 18, 2012, 01:00

LONDON – Two fifths of men in developing countries still smoke or use tobacco, and women are increasingly starting to smoke younger, according to a large international study which found “alarming patterns” of tobacco use.

Despite years of anti-smoking measures across the world, most developing countries have low quit rates, according to the study in The Lancet medical journal on Friday.

There are wide differences in the rates of smoking between genders and nations, as well as major disparities in access to effective anti-smoking treatments.

“Although 1.1 billion people have been covered by the adoption of the most effective tobacco control policies since 2008, 83 per cent of the world’s population are not covered by two or more of these policies,” said Gary Giovino of the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions in New York, who led the research.

Measures include legislation banning smoking in public places, imposing advertising bans and requiring more graphic health warnings on cigarette packets.

The findings come as the world’s leading tobacco firms – British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco – lost a crucial legal appeal in Australia this week against the introduction of plain tobacco packaging.

Tobacco kills up to half of its users, according to the WHO. Smoking causes lung cancer, often fatal, and other chronic respiratory diseases. It is also a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, the world’s number one killers.

Using data from surveys carried out between 2008 and 2010, Giovino’s team compared patterns of tobacco use and cessation in people aged 15 or older from 14 low- and middle-income countries.

They found disproportionately high rates of smoking among men – at an average 41 per cent versus 5 per cent in women – and wide variation in smoking prevalence, ranging from about 22 per cent of men in Brazil to more than 60 per cent in Russia.

Rates of female smoking ranged from 0.5 per cent in Egypt to almost 25 per cent in Poland. Women in Britain and the United States also had high smoking rates, at 21 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. – (Reuters)