Fewer people are using tobacco worldwide as a new report shows a steady decline in the number of males using the product.
The Report on Tobacco Use released by the World Health Organisation on Thursday shows a decline in the use of tobacco products globally.
The WHO report covers the use of cigarettes, pipes, cigars, waterpipes, smokeless tobacco products (like bidis, cheroots and kretek) and heated tobacco products. Electronic cigarettes are not covered in the report.
The drop in the number is hinged on the decline in the number of males using tobacco.
This is the first time the world is recording a drop in the figures in the last 20 years.
The drop is regarded as a success for anti-tobacco campaigners because tobacco use has been identified as one of the greatest public health epidemics the world is facing.
Tobacco use accounts for over eight million deaths yearly. More than seven million of the deaths result from direct tobacco use while about 1.2 million are non-smokers exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke.
Tobacco use is also one of the risk factors common to the four main non-communicable diseases – cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and diabetes. It is also a risk factor for infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and lower respiratory infections.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said the decline indicates a powerful shift in the global tobacco epidemic.
He said the “decline in tobacco use among male marks a turning point in the fight against tobacco.”
“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.”
Also, WHO Director of Health Promotion, Ruediger Krech, said the “reductions in global tobacco use demonstrate that when governments introduce and strengthen their comprehensive evidence-based actions, they can protect the well-being of their citizens and communities.”
The international health agency said the finding from the report demonstrates how government-led action can protect communities from tobacco, save lives and prevent people from suffering from tobacco-related harm.
According to the report, in the last two decades, the overall global tobacco use has fallen from 1.397 billion in 2000 to 1.3337 billion in 2018, or by approximately 60 million people.
The report, titled “WHO Global Report on Trends in Prevalence of Tobacco Use 2000-2025, Third Edition”, showed that the reduction is largely driven by the decline in the number of females using these products (346 million in 2000 down to 244 million in 2018, or a fall of around 100 million).
The report shows that the number of male tobacco users has stopped growing and is projected to decline by more than one million fewer male users come 2020 (or 1.091 billion) compared to 2018 levels, and 5 million less by 2025 (1.087 billion).
By 2020, WHO projects 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.
The report also found that approximately 43 million children (aged 13-15) used tobacco in 2018 (14 million girls and 29 million boys).
The number of women using tobacco in 2018 was 244 million.
It projected that by 2025, there should be 32 million fewer women tobacco users.
Most of the gains are being made in low- and middle-income countries.
It found that Europe is the region making the slowest progress in reducing tobacco use among females.
Low government success
Despite such gains, WHO said the progress in meeting the global target set by governments to cut tobacco use by 30 per cent by 2025 remains off track.
WHO had been clamouring for countries to implement stringent measures on tobacco use.
However, many countries, including Nigeria, though have laws against tobacco use, the laws are not effectively enforced.
WHO said based on current progress, a 23 per cent reduction will be achieved by 2025.
It said more and more countries are implementing effective tobacco control measures, which are having the desired effect of reducing tobacco use.
Tobacco taxes not only help reduce tobacco consumption and health-care costs but also represent a revenue stream for financing for development in many countries.
It said only 32 countries are currently on track to reach the 30 per cent reduction target, it said.
The UN health agency said to achieve the desired results, there is a need for more policy action from countries.
Head of WHO’s tobacco control unit, Vinayak Prasad, said fewer people using tobacco is a major step for global public health.
“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, ” he said.