By Lauretta Ihonor, medwireNews Reporter
Results from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) suggest that almost 50% of men worldwide consume tobacco in one form or another.
But only 11% of women use tobacco, say the authors.
The findings, published in The Lancet, also indicate that women today are starting to smoke at a younger age than ever before.
This, say the authors, highlights "the need to reduce or maintain low smoking rates among women, to reduce initiation by young people, and to increase quitting rates in all smokers."
The study, which involved three billion people aged at least 18 years and from 14 low- and middle-income countries, identified smoking as the commonest form of tobacco consumption.
Indeed, 40.7% of men and 5.0% of women included in the survey said that smoking was their primary method of tobacco consumption.
This, say Gary Giovino (The State University of New York, Buffalo, USA) and co-authors, reflects the current strength of pro-tobacco forces worldwide.
They explain: "These [cigarette] products are technologically designed to mask harshness, provide particular taste sensations, and increase nicotine delivery.
"In addition, the tobacco companies that manufacture these cigarettes use numerous marketing and other strategies throughout the world to increase and sustain consumption."
When smoking-initiation ages were analyzed among the group, younger women (aged 25‑34 years) were found to start smoking at an earlier age than older women (aged 55‑64 years), at 18.0 and 23.6 years, respectively.
By contrast, the mean age of smoking-initiation remained at around 18.5 years among men of all ages.
The countries included in GATS were Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Vietnam. Of these, China had the highest number of tobacco users (301 million people).
Tobacco quit rates were lowest (<20%) in China, India, Egypt, and Russia, and highest in the UK and USA.
Editorialists Jeffrey Koplan (Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA) and Judith Mackay (World Lung Foundation, Hong Kong, China) said that although the GATS findings indicate a need for action, translating these findings into useful policies is likely to be challenging.
They explained: "Few policy makers have the scientific background to assess the validity and quality of even the high quality data of GATS. Governments might also reason that scientific evidence is only one aspect of designing policy."
Two additional stages of the GATS, which will involve more countries, are currently in development.
In the meantime, Giovino et al advise that the findings from the current "wave" of GATS "should be used to promote implementation of effective strategies for tobacco control."
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