Tobacco consumption has fallen from 28 to 16.3 percent of the adult population in the Americas in the first two decades of this century but vapes are a menace, according to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).
According to its 2022 report on tobacco control in the region of the Americas, presented last Monday in Brazil, tobacco consumption has fallen to 16.3 percent in the past two decades with 14.9 percent hoped for 2025, thus enabling the region to comply with the objective of 30 percent reduction, as set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for that date.
Chile is the country where the most adults consume tobacco (29.2 percent), followed by Argentina, the United States, Uruguay and Cuba. Panama has the lowest percentage (five).
In general terms, the percentages are 21.3 for men and 11.3 for women, "which reaffirms the need for the Americas to reinforce the gender aspect" in control strategies, deduces the report.
Among the youth population, Dominica registers the highest percentages of consumption, followed by Argentina, Mexico, Haiti and Guatemala. The adolescents of Canada, the United States and Brazil smoke the least.
Of the 35 countries of the Americas, 26 apply at least one of the six tobacco control measures recommended by the WHO since 2008.
This means that 900 million people or "96 percent of the population of the region is protected against harm from tobacco," i.e. 50 percent more than in 2007, points out the WHO.
"Tobacco causes almost a million deaths annually in the region and is the only product of legal consumption which kills up to half of its consumers," affirms Anselm Hennis, the director of the PAHO department for non-communicable diseases and mental health (quoted in a communiqué), notwithstanding.
"To this enormous threat the response must be equally aggressive," he adds.
But the progress has not been homogeneous and, according to PAHO, "nine countries have yet to adopt any of the measures" (Cuba, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Granada, Haiti and Belize).
According to the report, as of last year in the region, 24 countries were applying protective measures against exposure to the tobacco smoke of others, 22 highlight in big letters the perils of smoking on cigarette packs, 10 have systems of vigilance with recent data, six provide integral aid to those seeking to stop smoking and nine have a total ban on cigarette ads.
But only three countries (Argentina, Brazil and Chile) apply excise taxation on cigarettes representing three-quarters or more of their sales price.
South America has become the first smoke-free sub-region in the Americas – i.e. where smoking in public and closed spaces and on public transport is prohibited.
Tobacco consumption is the main risk factor for cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancer.
"All forms of tobacco are harmful and there is no safe level of exposure," warns PAHO.
The report warns that new products like vapes "are increasingly accessible, which supposes a threat of tobacco control."
Furthermore, "the tobacco industry employs deceptive affirmations to gain new consumers and markets," he adds.
PAHO recommends that governments intervene "to prevent non-smokers from beginning to consume these products with tobacco consumption again becoming normal in society, thus protecting future generations."
At global level tobacco causes more than eight million deaths annually, of whom 1.2 million are non-smokers who have been exposed to tobacco smoke.