GENEVA — The number of male tobacco users is falling for the first time, the World Health Organisation said Thursday, hailing a "major shift" in efforts to kick the world's deadly tobacco addiction.
The number of women and girls who use tobacco products has been steadily declining for years. But tobacco use among males – who account for the overwhelming majority of smokers – has until now been expanding.
In a new report, the UN health agency hailed the beginning decline as a powerful indication that anti-smoking campaigns around the globe had begun to pay off.
But it warned that far more was needed to kick the addiction, which is estimated to kill some eight million people each year.
"Declines in tobacco use amongst males mark a turning point in the fight against tobacco," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement, saying the shift was "driven by governments being tougher on the tobacco industry."
For the past two decades, global tobacco use has been slowly dwindling, from 1.397 billion users in 2000 to 1.337 billion in 2018. This means around 60 million fewer people were using tobacco products, even as the global populations has swelled.
But that reduction has been strongly driven by declines in the number of women and girls using tobacco products, WHO said, with the number dropping from 346 million in 2000 to 244 million last year.
Over the same period, the number of male tobacco users rose by around 40 million, from 1.05 billion to 1.093 billion.
But men, who today account for more than 80 per cent of all tobacco users, are finally beginning to kick the habit. — AFP