Smoking prevalence and attributable disease burden: challenges for the Asia Pacific Region

The Lancet has published a systematic analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015 tracking smoking prevalence and attributable disease burden in 195 countries and territories, spanning the years from 1990 to 2015. Even though the scale-up of tobacco control has led to reduced smoking prevalence, especially after the adoption of the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC), smoking remains a leading risk for early death and disability worldwide.

The study shows that progress in reducing smoking prevalence has been heterogeneous across geographies, development status and sex. Therefore, past rates of decline should not be taken for granted. Worldwide, the age-standardised prevalence of daily smoking was 25% for men and 5.4% for women. In 2015, 11.5% of global deaths (6.4 million) were directly linked to the effects of smoking. 52% of these deaths took place in only four countries, two of them located in East and South Asia (China, India, the USA and Russia).

Age-standardised prevalence of daily smoking for men (A) and women (B), in 2015
Source: The Lancet


Smoking was also ranked among the five leading risk factors by disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) in 109 countries and territories in 2015, compared to only 88 countries in 1990. In relation to birth cohorts, male smoking followed similar age patterns across levels of the Socio-demographic Index (SDI)[1], whereas much more heterogeneity was detected in female smokers by level of development.

In 2015, around 933 million smokers lived around the world, with 82.3% of them being male. The ten countries hosting the largest number of smokers accounted for 63.6% of the world’s daily smokers. Alarmingly, China, India and Indonesia, the three leading countries in total number of male smokers, accounted for 51.4% of the world’s male smokers in 2015. The USA, China and India were the leading countries for female smokers and accounted for 27.3% of the world’s female smokers. Moreover, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines did not show any significant reductions in male prevalence of daily smoking since 1990 and the Philippines, Germany and India did have no reductions worth mentioning in smoking among women.

The Asia Pacific needs more concerted policy initiatives as well as policy compliance and enforcement to reverse the trends of smoking prevalence and attributable disease burden in the region. The fight against tobacco needs to continue, especially in countries with the highest number of smokers. NCDAPA has been repeatedly advocated for raising awareness of the devastating health and economic effects tobacco use has in the Asia Pacific. For more information please re-read our article regarding last year’s World No Tobacco Day and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

For more information on methodology in regard to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015, please find the full article here.

[1] SDI is a summary measure of a geography’s socio-demographic development. It is based on average income per person, educational attainment and total fertility rate

by Moritz Laqua: Moritz has been working with NCDAPA since 2015. Before joining, he completed a traineeship in GIZ’s corporate development department, contributing to alliance building and strategic partnership management. At NCDAPA he works on external relations and policy, regularly providing articles and updates on political and legal developments within the field of NCDs. Moritz holds postgraduate degrees in Law and International Relations from the University of Munich and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He is currently positioned in Southeast Asia.