The UN's public health agency on World No Tobacco Day called on countries to do more to reduce tobacco use. Many in China and India, home to 38 percent of the world's smokers, aren't even aware of its fatal effects.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday — World No Tobacco Day — said most countries are failing to significantly reduce tobacco use even though smoking is down across the globe.
"The worldwide prevalence of tobacco smoking has decreased from 27 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2016, so progress has been made," said Douglas Bettcher, director of the WHO prevention of non-communicable disease prevention unit.
Since then, the number of adult smokers has remained relatively stable at roughly 1.1 billion due to population growth.
Germany is slightly above average, with 27 percent of adults being smokers in 2015. That figure is down from 30.6 percent in 2000.
Bettcher noted that industrialized countries are making more progress than developing countries due to resistance in the industry and lack of information about the devastating effect of tobacco use.
"One of the major factors impeding low- and middle-income countries certainly is countries face resistance by a tobacco industry who wishes to replace clients who die by freely marketing their products and keeping prices affordable for young people," Bettcher said.
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'Governments have the power'
But resistance from the industry isn't the only problem undercutting efforts to curb tobacco use. The WHO said that in China and India, which have the highest number of tobacco users, many people aren't informed of the potentially fatal impact of smoking.
"The percentage of adults who do not believe smoking causes stroke are, for example in China, as high as 73 percent. For heart attacks, 61 percent of adults in China are not aware that smoking increases the risk," Bettcher said. "We aim to close this gap."
China has 307 million smokers, while India comprises 106 million of them. Collectively, they account for nearly 38 percent of the world's smokers, according to WHO figures.
"Governments have the power in their hands to protect their citizens from suffering needlessly from heart disease," added Bettcher.
More than seven million deaths each year have been linked to tobacco use worldwide, with nearly 900,000 of them from inhaling secondhand smoke.
ls/rt (AFP, Reuters)