India is among 60 countries on track to achieve the global target of a 30 per cent reduction in tobacco use by 2025, according to the fourth World Health Organization's global tobacco trends report.
As per the report, the number of tobacco users have decreased globally to 1.30 billion in 2020 from 1.32 billion in 2015. This is expected to continue to drop to 1.27 billion by 2025.
The report further said that the fastest rate of decline in the use of tobacco was seen in the WHO South-East Asia Region, with average prevalence of smoking among men declining from 50 per cent in 2000 to 25 per cent in 2020 and tobacco smoking among women declining steeply from 8.9 per cent in 2000 to 1.6 per cent in 2020.
"Sustained political commitment and relentless efforts by countries to strengthen surveillance, expand tobacco control measures including cessation services to help users quit tobacco are some of the key reasons for success," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, in a statement.
The region currently has the highest rates of tobacco use, with around 432 million users, or 29 per cent of its population. It is also home to 266 million smokeless tobacco users out of 355 million globally.
Tobacco use is one of the key risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCD) and effective tobacco control is important for prevention and control of NCDs.
Millions of lives have been saved by effective and comprehensive tobacco control policies under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and MPOWER.
If tobacco control efforts continue at the current level, smoking rates in the South East Asia Region can reach as low as 11 per cent in 2025. This would be the second lowest regional average rate after Africa - 7.5 per cent in 2025, Singh said.
Further, the WHO global report showed that 150 countries have shown rates of tobacco use decline and from only 32 countries on track two years ago, currently 60 countries are on track. This is despite the advent of Covid-19 in the past 2 years.
"It is very encouraging to see fewer people using tobacco each year, and more countries on track to meet global targets," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, in a statement.
"We still have a long way to go, and tobacco companies will continue to use every trick in the book to defend the gigantic profits they make from peddling their deadly wares. We encourage all countries to make better use of the many effective tools available for helping people to quit, and saving lives," he added.
According to the report, recent evidence also shows that the tobacco industry used the Covid pandemic to build influence with governments in 80 countries, including in India.
But India stepped up efforts to protect health policy, according to a report by tobacco industry watchdog STOP.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare adopted a code of conduct aimed at preventing industry interference and conflicts of interest among public officials and all departments within the Ministry's jurisdiction, it said.
The WHO report also showed that in 2020, 22.3 per cent of the global population used tobacco, 36.7 per cent of all men and 7.8 per cent of the world's women.
Approximately 38 million children (aged 13-15) currently use tobacco (13 million girls and 25 million boys). In most countries it is illegal for minors to purchase tobacco products. The goal is to achieve zero child tobacco users.
The number of women using tobacco in 2020 was 231 million. The age group with the highest prevalence rate among women for tobacco use is 55-64.