WHO sees tobacco drop among men, vaping effects unclear

The popularity of e-cigarettes have increased considerably among both men and women.

The number of men consuming traditional tobacco products has started to decline across the world, health officials said Thursday.

Four out of five tobacco users globally are men, so decline among males "marks a turning point in the fight against tobacco", Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said in a statement.

The agency's fresh report covers an array of tobacco use, including cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco. But the WHO did not count electronic cigarettes as tobacco products. Officials weren't sure about the impact the growing popularity of vaping devices has had in diverting people from traditional smoking.

However, WHO officials said that they plan to release a report on e-cigarette usage, early next year.

Researchers previously reported a decline in both male and female smoking rates internationally, but the drop wasn't enough to offset the growth in the world population.

The number of female tobacco users did shrink since 2000, but the number of male tobacco users continued to edge up, making the total to cross 1.3 billion people.

That appears to have changed last year, the agency said. The WHO estimates the number of male tobacco users will further decline by more than one million next year and by five million by 2025.

The agency said the decline is driven mainly by a decrease in the number of males who exclusively use smokeless tobacco.

The WHO report found that countries in Southeast Asia have the world's highest rates of tobacco use— 45 per cent among males and females- aged 15 and older. But that percentage too is projected to decline, officials said.

In a call with reporters, the WHO's Dr. Alison Commar noted that smokeless tobacco use was once common among the women in India and other Asian countries, but lately, it's mainly observed in older women.

"It seems to be a dying tradition," Commar said. 

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