Despite efforts to control the use of tobacco, it is still consumed by 852 million people worldwide, according to US researchers.
Writing in The Lancet, Gary Giovino and his team from the University of Buffalo found that around 661 million people currently smoke, while 247 million use smokeless tobacco products.
The situation is particularly acute in developing nations, where roughly half of adult men use tobacco.
Meanwhile, quit rates were found to be relatively low in the majority of the countries included in the study.
Smoking causes over a dozen types of cancer, as well as emphysema, heart disease and stroke.
After reviewing Global Adult Tobacco Surveys conducted between 2008 and 2010, the research team compared tobacco usage trends in developed nations like the US and UK, along with 14 less affluent regions.
21 per cent of UK women smoked, as did 16 per cent of women in the US. But overall the study showed that men were more likely to smoke than their female counterparts.
When all the countries were combined, 41 per cent of men smoked compared to just five per cent of women.
China had the largest population of tobacco users overall – 301 million – while the figure in India stood at around 275 million.
In terms of quitting tobacco habits, the research team discovered that people in the UK, the US, Brazil and Uruguay were most likely to give up tobacco. More than 35 per cent of people in these countries reported that they had quit their habit.
In comparison, less than 20 per cent of smokers in China, India, Egypt, Bangladesh and Russia said they had quit.
Commenting on the findings, Mr Giovino said: “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.”
He added: “Our findings come at a crucial point in tobacco control, several years after the ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and reinforce the need for effective tobacco control.”
Hazel Nunn, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information, said: “In a week when the Australian High Court has backed its government’s decision to remove branding on tobacco packets, these figures provide a stark reminder as to the global scale of the tobacco problem.
“Success in reducing smoking rates in countries like Australia and the UK means the tobacco industry needs to look elsewhere to maintain customer levels and their profits. The huge numbers of smokers worldwide casts a looming shadow of ill-health as the effects of smoking will take hold over the coming years,” she added.
“Smoking causes death, disease and disability – it kills half of all long-term smokers. Without continued efforts to reduce smoking rates, the shadow cast by tobacco will continue to devastate many millions of lives.”
Copyright Press Association 2012
- Giovino, G.A., Mirza, S.A., Samet, J.M., Gupta, P.C., Jarvis, M.J., Bhala, N., Peto, R., Zatonski, W., Hsia, J., Morton, J. & (2012). Tobacco use in 3 billion individuals from 16 countries: an analysis of nationally representative cross-sectional household surveys, The Lancet, 380 (9842) 679. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61085-X