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WHO promotes No Tobacco Day, but says smoking rising in poorer nations

WHO promotes No Tobacco Day, but says smoking rising in poorer nations
By Robert Hackwill
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Report underlines falling consumption in the West, but big five tobacco companies replacing lost markets by agressively expanding elsewhere.


The World Health Organisation, promoting No Tobacco Day this Thursday, is sounding the alarm over the power of Big Tobacco in a new report.

Consumption in the developing world is rising fast as companies aggresively market their products there, unhindered by advertising bans or health warnings, and replacing consumers in the West who have given up, or died.

"As the report explains, only one in eight countries is on track to meet the voluntary global target to reduce tobacco use. And one of the major factors impeding low- and middle-income countries is that certainly, countries face resistance from the tobacco industry that wishes to replace clients who die by freely marketing their products and keeping prices affordable for young people," says the WHO's Director of the Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, Douglas Bettcher .

The WHO forecasts declines in global volume and sales value by the start of the next decade, but while Europe and America are kicking the habit, in the near East and Africa tobacco consumption is rising.

Experts warn of a health time bomb in countries the least able to afford it, where medical facilities will be put under strain from an expected rise in smoking-related diseases, and political systems less able to resist intensive tobacco lobbying.

The big five tobacco companies have an 80% market share.

These are the report's main findings:

One step forward, two steps back

Tobacco kills over 7 million people each year, despite the steady reduction in tobacco use globally, based on statistics and forecasts for the period 2000-2025. The report shows that worldwide, 27% smoked tobacco in 2000, compared to 20% in 2016. But the world's population is growing, masking the true picture.

However, the pace of action in reducing tobacco demand and related death and disease is lagging behind global and national commitments to reduce tobacco use by 30% by 2025 among people aged 15 and older. If the trend continues on the current trajectory, the world will only achieve a 22% reduction by 2025.

Change in smoking:

There are 1.1 billion adult smokers in the world today, and at least 367 million smokeless tobacco users. The number of smokers in the world has barely changed this century: it was also 1.1 billion in 2000. This is due to population growth, even as prevalence rates decline.

By sex:

For males aged 15 and over, 43% smoked tobacco in 2000 compared to 34% in 2015. For females, 11% smoked in 2000, compared to 6% in 2015.

Smokeless tobacco:

Around 6.5% of the global population aged 15 and over use smokeless tobacco, (8.4% of males and 4.6% of females).


Country response:

Over half of all WHO Member States have reduced demand for tobacco, and almost one in eight are likely to meet the 30% reduction target by 2025. But countries must do more to monitor tobacco use in all its forms – not only tobacco smoking. Currently, one in four countries have insufficient data to monitor their tobacco epidemic.


Worldwide, about 7%, or just over 24 million children aged 13–15, smoke cigarettes, (17 million boys and 7 million girls). About 4% of children aged 13–15 years, (13 million), use smokeless tobacco products.


Developing countries:

Over 80% of tobacco smokers live in low- and middle-income countries, (LMICS). Prevalence of smoking is decreasing more slowly in LMICs than in high-income countries, and the number of smokers is on the increase in low-income countries.

Industry overview

The global cigarette industry is one of the most profitable and deadly industries in the world.

▪▪ Cigarette retail values in 2016 were worth US$683.4 billion, (587 billion euros).


▪▪ In 2016, over 5.5 trillion cigarettes were sold to more than one billion smokers worldwide.

▪▪ Between 2002 and 2016, global cigarette volume sales increased by 1.3% while real retail values increased by 27.6%.

▪▪ Industry analysts predict that by 2021 the global cigarette volume will decline by 8.2%, and real value will decline by 1.1%

While cigarette sales are expanding to new markets, industry market shares are consolidating, and the market is increasingly controlled by a few international companies. In 2001, a little more than 43% of global market sales were controlled by the five leading transnational tobacco companies, (TTC).


By 2016, 79.6% of the market was controlled by TTCs. Over the last decade, the international cigarette market has been dominated by five companies, China National Tobacco Corporation, Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco Inc. and Imperial Tobacco.

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