Record-Breaking Smoking Numbers

A man smokes a cigar as outside a Buenos Aires coffee store. May 22, 2021. Image: Marcos Brindicci/Getty Images
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A man smokes a cigar as outside a Buenos Aires coffee store. May 22, 2021. Image: Marcos Brindicci/Getty Images

Smoking prevalence has fallen in the last 4 decades—but the number of smokers worldwide has increased to 1.1 billion, propelled by population growth, according to a new Lancet article

Takeaways:

  • Current smokers consumed 7.41 trillion “cigarette-equivalents” of tobacco in 2019.
  • Smoking prevalence dropped 27.5% among males and 37.7% among females from 1990–2019. 
  • There were 7.69 million smoking deaths in 2019 (from ischemic heart disease, COPD, cancers, and stroke).
  • 1 in 3 tobacco smokers live in China.

Stop 'em young: “Ensuring that young people remain smoke-free through their mid-20s will result in radical reductions in smoking rates for the next generation,” lead author Marissa Reitsma, of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told The Guardian.

Solutions: Increasing cigarette taxes is the most effective policy, but taxes are significantly lower in low- and middle-income countries compared to wealthy countries.
 
Advertising and promotion bans are also needed—but only 1 in 4 “countries have comprehensively banned all forms of direct and indirect advertising,” according to co-author Vin Gupta.

The quote: “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,” Gupta said.

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