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Smoking rates increasing in the developing world

Although smoking rates in the United States have been slowly declining, tobacco use is on the rise in several developing countries.

In a recent Atlantic post, Lindsay Abrams takes a closer look at the pervasive influence of cigarette manufacturers in the developing world and offers data from the latest Global Adult Tobacco Survey (subscription required).

Survey results show that nearly half of men in 14 developing countries are tobacco users and that women are starting to smoke at younger ages. Overall, researchers predict smoking will cause one billion deaths in the 21st century. Despite the grim outlook, Abrams says there's reason to be optimistic:

Quit rates are noticeably higher in countries with programs in place for discouraging tobacco use and helping with quitting, such as the U.S., the U.K., Brazil, and Uruguay.

As the world looks to countries as models for tobacco use, Uruguay deserves note. It was included in GATS precisely because of its stringent anti-tobacco policies, including mandated graphic labels that take up 80 percent of cigarette packaging, sales tax increases, and bans on tobacco advertising and on indoor smoking in public places. Earlier this month, the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (ITC) released a report indicating that the prevalence of tobacco use in Uruguay has decreased by 25 percent over three years.

Among other promising data, 70 percent of Uruguay's smokers expressed regret for every having taken up smoking, and in the five-year period covered by the survey, over two-thirds of smokers at least attempted to quit. Positive health changes are already being seen, and may in part be attributed to these policies. The ITC found a 22 percent reduction in the rate of hospital admissions for heart attacks and a 90 percent decrease in air contamination in enclosed public spaces in the year after they were enacted.

Previously: A call to stop tobacco marketing, Study suggests genetics may predict success of smoking cessation methods and What’s being done about the way tobacco companies market and manufacture products
Photo by Alex Dram

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