World No Tobacco Day: Five things you need to know about cigarettes

World No Tobacco Day: Five things you need to know about cigarettes

The share of smokers in general has been declining for several years thanks to government anti-smoking measures. Illustrative photo Bigstock

Every minute 10 million smokers light a cigarette and 15 people die from tobacco. Faced with this discovery, here are five things to know on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, celebrated by the WHO on May 31st.

– How many smokers? The World Health Organization (WHO) and The Tobacco Atlas estimate over one billion smokers out of a population of 8 billion. They consume more than 5,000 billion cigarettes every year, according to The Tobacco Atlas, a tobacco information center for the American NGO Vital Strategies, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. The share of smokers has generally been declining for several years thanks to government anti-smoking measures such as tax increases, as well as the recent introduction of electronic cigarettes. In 2000, one third of the world’s population over the age of 15 smoked, now this proportion has fallen to almost 20%.

– Where do people smoke the most? It is in China that we find the largest number of smokers: in a country of 1.4 billion people, almost 300 million people smoke (according to WHO data for 2020). Indonesia is the country with the highest proportion of male smokers: 62.7% among those over 15 years of age. Cigarettes are a scourge that currently affects mostly poor countries: 80% of smokers live in low- or middle-income countries. In Africa and the Middle East, the number of smokers is decreasing slightly, and in some cases increasing, as, for example, in Egypt, Lebanon or Iraq.

– How many deaths? Tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death, with a person dying every four seconds around the world due to cigarettes. Active or passive smoking killed almost 9 million people in 2019 (Global Burden of Disease study published in 2021 in The Lancet). Cancer, in particular of the lung, heart attack, stroke and respiratory diseases such as COPD are the main diseases associated with tobacco. In the 20th century, tobacco caused 100 million casualties (study published in 2009 in Nature), more than 60 to 80 million deaths during World War II, combined with 18 million deaths in the 14-18 years war. Mass smoking could lead to 450 million deaths in the first half of the 21st century and is costly for society: it eats up 6% of global health care costs (a study coordinated by WHO and published in 2018 by the journal Tobacco control).

– What are the consequences on the planet? Cigarettes harm not only the lungs and arteries of smokers, but also the planet: the production and consumption of tobacco emits 84 million tons of CO2 per year, which is equivalent to a fifth of the pollution from commercial aircraft (WHO data). Nearly a million tons of cigarette butts with their non-biodegradable cellulose acetate filters are thrown away each year. Growing tobacco requires 22 billion tons of water per year, and its industry produces 25 million tons of solid waste.

– Is the sector in decline? Is the world of tobacco companies in recession with the gradual decline in tobacco consumption since 2012? Nothing is less certain, The Tobacco Atlas points out: in rich countries, this powerful industry has diversified into alternative products, most notably e-cigarettes. In middle- or low-income countries, the big tobacco companies continue their “aggressive” pricing policies and spend crazy sums to fight anti-tobacco measures. The two US offices of economic analysis predict an annual increase in the sector’s total turnover of about 2.5% over the next five to eight years, amounting to $940 billion in 2023.

On World No Tobacco Day, WHO is urging farmers to grow edible food, not tobacco, to improve food security, but notes that in Africa, the area dedicated to the crop has increased by almost 20% in 15 years.

Olivier THIBAU/AFP

Source: L Orient Le Jour

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