The World Health Organization is warning that tobacco could kill a billion people around the world in this century.
The Global Adult Tobacco Survey noted that nearly half of all men and more than one in 10 women use tobacco in many developing countries, Time.com reported. According to the study, women are also starting to smoke at an earlier age.
The authors of the study told Time that the numbers call for urgent changes in tobacco policy and regulation in developing nations.
Gary Giovino, of the School of Public Health and Health Professions, told Time, "Our data reflect industry efforts to promote tobacco use. These include marketing and mass media campaigns by companies that make smoking seem glamorous, especially for women. The industry's marketing efforts also equate tobacco use with Western themes, such as freedom and gender equality."
Egypt is one country where researchers said they were seeing the largest increase in smoking. Edouard Tursan D'Espaignet, of WHO's tobacco control program, told CNN that the increase is partially due to the revolution.
CNN noted that government regulations limiting smoking fell apart after Hosni Mubarak's regime was ousted last year. Tursan D'Espaignet added that "the tobacco industry walked in very, very aggressively" to market its product amid the chaos. "We are hearing things like 'Smoking is a way to show you're free from the previous regime,'" he said.
According to the Atlantic, manufactured cigarettes are the most widely used form of tobacco in the countries surveyed by the GATS. Cigarettes accounted for 82 percent of tobacco consumption. The study's authors noted, "These products are technologically designed to mask harshness, provide particular taste sensations, and increase nicotine delivery."
There are still glimmers of hope in the fight against smoking. Earlier this year GlobalPost reported that a CDC study showed that cigarette smoking declined by 2.5 percent in the US from 2010.
The GATS study was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, with additional funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
According to CNN, Bloomberg Philanthropies says that in 2007, it supported the WHO's efforts "to package and promote six proven policies to reduce tobacco use worldwide." It added that since then, "21 countries have passed 100 percent smoke-free laws, the percentage of people protected from second-hand smoke has increased 400%, and almost four billion people worldwide are now protected by at least one of the six proven tobacco control policies." (globalpost.com)