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Tobacco industry booming in Asia

Immigration News

Pic of toboco userWhile much of the developed world has seen a big drop in the number of smokers, the opposite is true of many emerging and developing markets in Asia. Health officials are concerned.

Huge tobacco companies like big numbers, and they’re finding them in Asia, with the world’s largest and fastest growing population.

Take China with its estimated population of 1.3 billion people: More than 300 million Chinese already smoke. Or consider India with its 1.2 million people: Around 275 million people there are tobacco users, according to recent World Health Organization (WHO) figures.

But now the number of smokers  sagnefecntly increased in Afghanistan, a country with low income and huge number of people living under the poverty line.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that In Afghanistan, for instance, just over 2 percent of tobacco users are women and about 10 percent of teenagers smoke.

Afghanistan also has a smoking problem. Ahmad, a 33-year factory worker in Kabul, admits it’s sometimes tough not to smoke when everyone is smoking.

“People smoke because their parents smoke or their friends smoke or they’re stressed,” he told Khaama Press. “People smoke because it is also very cheap to smoke here. And they also like to copy movie stars.”

The WHO is acutely aware of Asia’s potentially dangerous demographics when it comes to having a puff.

“Countries with low numbers of people smoking are markets waiting to be tapped,” said Edouard Tursan D’Espaignet of WHO’s tobacco control program.

“In many Asian countries like China and India where men already smoke at an incredibly high rate, women and young people are now being targeted by the tobacco industry.”

Already, approximately 1 million smokers in China die each year from tobacco-related diseases and about 100,000 people die from exposure to second-hand smoke, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

If current trends continue, the non-governmental organization expects the country’s smoke-related death toll to reach 2 million by 2020.

But there is no official numbers of tobacco related death in Afghanistan a country which producer more than 90 percent of poppy in the world.

Kicking the habit may not be so easy for China, however.

The country is both the largest consumer and producer of tobacco in the world. More than 20 million Chinese farmers produce nearly 40 percent of the global supply. Clearly, there’s money to be made.

China’s tobacco sales in the first half of this year rose 2.8 percent from a year ago to 1.31 trillion cigarettes, according to the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration. And for the same period, the sector remained one of the countries most profitable, with state-owned tobacco companies reporting a combined profit of 152.04 billion yuan (US$24.08 billion). The government collected 480.7 billion yuan in tax revenues for the period.

Singapore is seen as one of Asia’s most determined countries to curb tobacco usage. Smoking is banned in nearly every public area. Cigarettes are expensive, about US$9 per pack, and packages already contain graphics. Yet the government says smoking is on the rise.

Indonesia, by comparison, is the complete opposite. The country of 240 million is one of the last vestiges of laissez-faire tobacco controls in the world and is paying with the price of growing addiction.

Its problem is illustrated with a video circulating on the Internet, showing a toddler with a 40-cigarette-a-day habit.

Indonesia has no ban on advertising. Consumers see ads of well-known athletes promoting smoking and even sporting events named after sporting events.

Some 17.3 million smoke in the Philippines, one of Asia’s highest rates, and about 87,000 people die per year of tobacco-related disease, according to Philippine Health Undersecretary Paulyn Jean Ubial.

WHO claims that tobacco kills half of its users.

The agency warns in its recently published Global Adult Tobacco Survey that if the current trend continues, it will cause up to 1 billion deaths in the 21st century.

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