GENEVA: According to a recent report by the World Health Organization, the number of males using tobacco was on the decline. This happened for the first time, indicating a powerful shift in the global tobacco epidemic. The findings demonstrated how government-led action could protect communities from tobacco, save lives, and prevent people from suffering tobacco-related harm.
“Declines in tobacco use amongst males mark a turning point in the fight against tobacco,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “For many years now, we had witnessed a steady rise in the number of males using deadly tobacco products. Now, however, for the first time, we are seeing a decline in male use, driven by governments being tougher on the tobacco industry. The WHO will continue working closely with countries to maintain this downward trend.”
During nearly the past two decades, overall global tobacco use had fallen, from 1.397 billion in 2000 to 1.337 billion in 2018, or by approximately 60 million people, according to the WHO global report on trends in the prevalence of tobacco use 2000-2025 third edition. This had been primarily driven by reductions in the number of females using these products (346 million in 2000 down to 244 million in 2018, or a fall over around 100 million).
Over the same period, male tobacco use had risen by around 40 million, from 1.050 billion in 2000 to 1.093 billion in 2018 (or 82% of the world’s current 1.337 billion tobacco users).
Positively, however, the new report showed that the number of male tobacco users had stopped growing and was projected to decline by more than 1 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, the WHO projected that there would 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% of countries had been experiencing a decline in tobacco use since 2010.
“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,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at the WHO.
Despite such gains, progress in meeting the global target set by governments to cut tobacco use by 30% by 2025 remained off track. Based on current progress, a 23% reduction would be achieved by 2025. Only 32 countries were currently on track to reach the 30% reduction target.
However, the projected declined in tobacco use among males, who represented the overwhelming majority of tobacco users, could be built on and used to accelerate efforts to reach the global target, said Dr Vinayak Prasad, head of the WHO’s tobacco control unit.
“Fewer people are using tobacco, which is a major step for global public health,” said Dr Prasad. “However, the work is not yet done. Without stepped-up national action, the projected fall in tobacco use still will not meet global reduction targets. We must never let up in the fight against Big Tobacco.”