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Cigarettes Hit Poorer Nations as The West Quits

The smoking boom will hamper world health and development—especially if China's women take up the habit.

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China smokes more than the next four top
tobacco-consums combined.. Photo via

By Bryan Le

04/06/12

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Western nations may be putting the cigarettes down, but developing countries are picking them up. Over the past two decades, education, taxes, policies and media blitzes have cut smoking in the US and Western Europe by as much as 26%, but lower-income countries have begun smoking at such volume that it actually offsets these decreases. The rise in smoking in less developed countries is due to “targeted marketing, increased social acceptability, economic development and population increases,” according to the American Cancer Society's recently-released Tobacco Atlas. China, home to one fifth of the world's population, consumes one third of the world's cigarettes. Half of Chinese men smoke (but interestingly, only 2% of women). And cigarette use in the Middle East and Africa has risen by almost 60%. "Among the 14 countries where 50% or more of men smoke," notes the Tobacco Atlas, "all but one country (Greece) are classified as low- or middle-income." If developing countries don't curb their smoking rates, tobacco-related illness and death could actually hinder development. "If the smoking prevalence among Chinese women increases," the report says, "global consumption of cigarettes will skyrocket, and the country's economy and health-care systems will be overwhelmed."

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