Trends in 2022 show a continued decline in tobacco use rates globally. That year, 1 in 5 adults worldwide consumed tobacco compared to 1 in 3 in 2000.
The director of Health Promotion at the WHO presented the main findings of the Global tobacco report in Geneva on Tuesday (Jan.16).
“We have 1.25 billion people still smoking. That is the last figure we have from the Global trends report that we're releasing today," Dr Rüdiger Krech said.
"But that also means that we have 19 million less smokers than we had two years ago. That is the first time that we see such a decline.”
Currently, the fastest decreases in tobacco use are happening in the lower middle-income group of countries whereas the highest prevalence of tobacco users is in the WHO South-East Asian region, however with fast falling rates.
The WHO region which currently has the lowest tobacco use prevalence is the African Region, which has already decreased from an average of 18 per cent in 2000 to under 10 percent in 2022.
WHO urges countries to continue putting in place tobacco control policies and continue to fight against tobacco industry interference.
According to Krech, “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.”
The report estimates that there are at least 37 million children aged 13-15 currently using some form of tobacco, and many countries have found alarming levels of e-cigarette use among adolescents as well.
There is a clear need for policies that restrict advertising to young people, restrict access and reduce exposure to tobacco and nicotine products.
Alarming rates among children
The report estimates that there are at least 37 million children aged 13-15 currently using some form of tobacco.
Many countries inclduing the UK have found alarming levels of e-cigarette use among adolescents.
The WHO director of health promotion pleaded for more regulation.
“There's a few countries who have banned e-cigarettes, which we welcome. If you have not banned it, you should take very strong regulatory measures, meaning that you need to ensure that children do not get access to e-cigarettes.”
Krech mentioned that “we have teachers calling us, especially in the UK, where you saw a 150 per cent increase in the last three years of uptake of e-cigarettes by children. So, they call us to say children cannot stay a whole 45-minute lesson anymore because they need to step out to get e-cigarettes.”
Since most of the e-cigarettes and vapes are purchased through internet, it would be important, according to the WHO, to ensure that these devices are no longer available to children.
All the different kind of flavors offered for vaping are more attractive to children and less to older adults. “You have thousands of flavors, each of these flavors contain different chemicals,” said WHO’s Krech. “So the toxicity of these liquids, if you inhale them, if you're not swallowing them, but you inhale them, is completely different. So, the tactics of the tobacco industry is to swamp the market.”
**To protect the 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.
For those who use vaping to quit smoking, it should be regulated as medicine where you get it through a pharmacy with a prescription for it, said Krech.
Tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year, including an estimated 1.3 million non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke.