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New Tobacco Atlas: The Scale of the Tobacco Epidemic and the Progress Made

Vital Strategies

Nearly 5 trillion cigarettes are consumed each year, contributing to more than 8 million deaths and nearly US $2 trillion in economic damage. The Seventh Edition of the Tobacco Atlas finds slower progress in larger, poorer countries outweighing gains in many higher-income countries.

With 1.1 billion smokers in the world and several hundred million more who use other tobacco products, tobacco use remains a global epidemic. Progress is threatened by growing smoking rates among children aged 13 to 15 years in many countries and by tobacco industry tactics such as targeting poorer countries with weak regulatory environments and pushing novel products in previously untapped markets.

The Seventh Edition of the Tobacco Atlas, released by Vital Strategies and the Tobacconomics team at the University of Illinois at Chicago, serves as a warning call to all those who care about global health and economic development. It shows that tobacco control works: Global smoking rates dropped from 22.6% in 2007 to 19.6% in 2019. But uneven implementation of proven tobacco control measures means that richer countries reap the benefits, while the industry continues to prey on emerging economies to hook new generations on their deadly products.

The Tobacco Atlas demonstrates how younger generations are already facing the consequences of industry growth: Youth tobacco use has increased in 63 of 135 countries surveyed, and now more than 50 million 13- to 15-year-olds smoke cigarettes or use smokeless tobacco products.

The Tobacco Atlas makes the case for tobacco control. It uses bold graphics and data visualizations to show the scale of the tobacco epidemic and bring the latest data to life. The report tracks where progress has been made and details the latest tactics being deployed by the tobacco industry to grow its profits. This Seventh Edition includes new chapters on COVID-19, counter-marketing and race, ethnicity and equity.

In the wake of COVID-19, countries are reassessing their public health decisions and investing in strategies that support health and economic growth. Tobacco control should be a priority—tobacco taxes drive down smoking rates, deter young people from smoking, and generate revenue that can be used for other health interventions. With strong tobacco controls, we can make progress towards better health and create a world where everyone is protected by equitable and effective public health systems.