Smoking in Developing Countries
Smoking rates among adults and children in developing countries have been increasing for years. In developed nations, such as the United States, people have implemented certain policies in order to increase taxes and therefore reduce tobacco consumption, successfully. Such policies have not yet enacted in areas of extreme poverty around the world. In fact, tobacco companies have responded by flooding low-income areas with reduced-priced cigarettes, tons of advertisements and an excessive number of liquor stores and smoke shops. It is time to have a conversation about smoking rates in developing countries and whether or not tobacco control policies are the best approach long-term, worldwide. Here are the top 6 facts about smoking in developing countries.

Top 6 Facts About Smoking in Developing Countries

  1. Smoking affects populations living in extreme poverty differently than it does those in wealthy areas. Stress is a harmful symptom of poverty and contributes to smoking rates in low-income areas. Oftentimes living in poverty also means living in an overcrowded, polluted area with high crime and violence rates and a serious lack of government or social support. Stress and smoking are rampant in these areas for a reason. It is also important to note that smoking wards off hunger signals to the brain which makes it useful for individuals to maintain their mental health of sorts if food is not an option.
  2. Smoking rates are much higher among men than women across the globe. While the relative statistics vary from country to country, smoking rates among women are very low in most parts of Africa and Asia but there is hardly any disparity in smoking rates between men and women in wealthy countries such as Denmark and Sweden. The pattern of high smoking rates among men remains prevalent worldwide. One can equally attribute this to two factors that go hand-in-hand: the oppression of women and the stress that men receive to provide with their families.
  3. The increase in smoking rates in developing countries also means an outstanding number of diseases and death. The good news is that countries have succeeded in reducing consumption by raising taxes on the product. Price, specifically in the form of higher taxes, seems to be one of the only successful options in terms of cessation. Legislation banning smoking in certain public spaces is one example of an effort that places a bandaid on the problem instead of addressing the root cause. There is no data that shows a direct correlation between non-smoking areas and quitting rates among tobacco users.
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an estimated 6 million deaths per year which one can attribute to smoking tobacco products. It also estimates that there will be about another 1 billion deaths by the end of this century. Eighty percent of these deaths land in low-income countries. The problem at hand is determining how this part of the cycle of poverty can change when it has been operating in favor of the upper class for so long.
  5. Within developing countries, tobacco ranks ninth as a risk factor for mortality in those with high mortality and only ranks third in those with low mortality. This means that there are still countries where other risk factors for disease and death are still more prominent than tobacco use, but that does not mean that tobacco is not a serious health concern all over the world. Of these developing countries, tobacco accounts for up to 16 percent of the burden of disease (measured in years).
  6. China has a higher smoking rate than the other four countries ranked highest for tobacco use combined. The government sells tobacco and accounts for nearly 10 percent of central government revenue. In China, over 50 percent of the men smoke, whereas this is only true for 2 percent of women. China’s latest Five-Year Plan (2011 – 2015) called for more smoke-free public spaces in an attempt to increase life expectancy. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes in Beijing goes for 22元, which is equivalent to $3. This is far cheaper than what developed countries charge with taxes. This continual enablement is a prime example of why smoking rates in developing countries are such a problem. While many people mistake China for a developed nation because it has the world’s second-largest economy and third-largest military, it is still a developing country.

In countries like China where smoking rates are booming and death tolls sailing, tobacco control policies may not be the best solution. While raising taxes to reduce consumption may seem like a simple concept, when applied to real communities, a huge percentage of people living in poverty with this addiction will either be spending more money on tobacco products or suffering from withdrawals. While it might be easy for many people to ignore the suffering of the other, in this case, a lower-class cigarette smoker, one cannot forget how the cycle of poverty and addiction and oppression has influenced their path in life.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

Tobacco Tax
Tobacco products are responsible for causing millions of preventable deaths each year. While there are several many ways to deter tobacco use, the most powerful and cost-effective way to decrease its use is by implementing tobacco control policies. Such policies, such as increased taxation, has been shown to reduce tobacco-related deaths and disease, prevent initiation of new smokers and decrease overall tobacco use. Tobacco taxes also increase government revenue, decrease the societal costs of tobacco (medical intervention and lost productivity) and allow individuals and families to reduce their expenses when quitting.

Organizations, such as the World Bank Group (WBG), WHO, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have been dedicated in expanding tobacco taxation work globally. The coordination of these organizations work to assist countries to most effectively control the spread of tobacco use.

Evidence shows that price increases on cigarettes are effective in reducing demand. Countries of all income levels have seen higher tobacco prices both decrease and prevent initiation of tobacco use. Compared to adults, children and adolescents are more sensitive to price increases, allowing for a significant impact in juvenile smoking.

The WHO is committed to helping governments design intelligent tobacco tax policy, and created an economics team to develop the WHO Tobacco Tax Simulation Model, TaXSiM. This model helps countries analyze tax policies, impacting assessment and decision-making.

Bull World Health Organ published data from 181 countries to quantify the impact of raising cigarette tax by one international dollar (I$) per pack. If implemented, daily smoking would decrease by 9 percent, resulting in 66 million fewer smokers and 15 million fewer smoke related deaths.

Countries that reinvested revenues from tobacco tax increases in health programs would also experience a greater impact on public health. Additionally, if revenues from tax increases were allocated to health budgets, expenditure on health would increase by 4 percent globally.

Tobacco use is a huge expense to society, and kills up to half of its users. Tobacco taxation, an important evidence-based intervention, helps countries achieve development objectives by increasing revenue, decreasing tobacco-related expenses and saving lives. Creating finance development while reducing tobacco use is a win-win policy for governments.

Yosef Mahmoud

Photo: Flickr

Tobacco Control MethodsThe World Health Organization found that the number of countries implementing tobacco control policies has quadrupled since 2007. Today, 63 percent of the population is covered by tobacco control methods. Tobacco control methods may come in the form of advertising bans, restricting smoking in public areas and other limitations on the use of tobacco.

One in 10 deaths around the world is caused by tobacco, and deaths caused by tobacco are entirely preventable. Tobacco-related illnesses also place a large burden on the healthcare system; each year the cost of healthcare and productivity loss due to tobacco is $1.4 trillion. Economic productivity is also impacted by tobacco use. Premature death and disability due to tobacco decreases the size of the workforce and potential output of a country.

The burden of tobacco-related deaths is higher in developing countries. More than 80 percent of deaths caused by noncommunicable disease, such as heart and lung disease, occur in low and middle-income countries. Tobacco is the leading risk factor for noncommunicable diseases. People of lower economic status and education levels often use tobacco at higher rates than people in a higher economic class.

The World Health Organization created the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to lay out methods for governments to limit tobacco use. Published in 2005, this was the first international public health treaty negotiated by the WHO. This framework puts forth the MPOWER tobacco control methods that aid governments in monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies, protecting people from tobacco smoke, warning people of the dangers of tobacco and enforcing bans on tobacco.

Since the framework was published many countries have taken action to reduce the prevalence of tobacco in their population. For example, after monitoring tobacco use within the country, Nepal placed the largest health warnings on tobacco packages; the warnings cover 90 percent of the package. In India, a survey showed that one in two tobacco users wanted to quit. India created a program and toll-free quit line in 2016 to support and encourage those who wanted to quit. The Philippines passed the Sin Tax Reform Law in 2012, which taxed tobacco products. A followup survey in 2015 showed that there were far fewer smokers in the country.

Today, one-third of countries monitor tobacco use. More countries need to design policies to measure tobacco use; these plans will help countries promote overall health and save healthcare costs. Upon gathering data, governments can create tailored and successful programs to reduce tobacco use.

Sarah Denning

Photo: Flickr

Tobacco use is still a huge problem in the world, killing around six million people a year. It can cause cancer, lung problems, heart diseases, gum problems, coronary heart diseases, and increased blood pressure. Low-income countries have the most users, but because of other major poverty issues, tobacco use control is not a huge priority.

Nearly 80 percent of the billion smokers in the world live in low and middle-income countries, and the number is predicted to rise. Studies show that the number of deaths per year related to tobacco use could kill more than eight million a year by 2030 with 80 percent of them being in lower-income countries.

Even if someone in poverty needed food, shelter, and education, there are studies that suggest that they are willing to spend money on tobacco because of its addictive qualities. Even though 80 percent of the population of Uganda live on less than $1 a day, 50 percent of men smoke while the poorest households in Bangladesh spend 10 times as much on tobacco as on education.

Marketing is a major cause of why users in poor countries smoke. The use of tobacco is actually declining in developed countries, but rising in developing ones. Prosperous first-world countries have constrained the advertising of smoking, but tobacco companies continue to target low-income areas. For example, before heavy advertising came about in the Soviet Union, very few women smoked. Then within ten years of the tobacco industry advertising in the Russian market, the smoking rates among women had doubled.

Because of a lack of education, people are not aware of the health risks of smoking. Only 38 percent of smokers in China are aware that smoking can cause coronary heart disease. Young people are more prone to advertising, and the tobacco companies use that advantage to target them. Children in impoverished nations are also exploited to work in tobacco farms to care for their families. The children’s health can be at risk, working long hours and being exposed to toxic pesticides.

How are organizations fighting this? The World Health Organization put up the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to call for scientific research to fight against tobacco use and improve global knowledge of its harm. The International Pediatric Association also works hard to combat tobacco use with children. The Bloomberg and Gates Foundation also devote a lot for their funding to tobacco control efforts. There have also been efforts from governments to increase the tax on tobacco, so people can avoid using it.

Developed countries are recovering from decades of tobacco addiction, and only government intervention in healthcare and industry regulations can allow the same to developing countries.

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr

products of child labor
Today, an estimated 115 million children are working — often forced — to produce many of the basic items we buy for cheap at local malls and retail stores. Ranging from the food we eat to the accessories we wear, there are reportedly around 128 goods which exploit and degrade the well-being of these children. Below is a list of the five most common products of child labor.


5 Main Products of Child Labor


5. Cocoa

According to the Department of Labor, cocoa is produced in at least five countries which utilize child labor, including Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire. Major candy companies such as Nestle and Hershey’s have been linked to some of these suppliers. Just recently, Nestle was accused of breaching its supplier code, including clauses of child labor, safety and working hours. Hershey’s, too, is reported to have at least thousands of children currently harvesting cocoa beans for the company in West Africa today.

4. Carpets

Currently being produced by five countries which utilize child labor, such as Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, these products of child labor are being shipped to retail outlets around the world, including areas of Europe, Asia, and the United States.

3. Tobacco

One of the most popular goods in the world, tobacco has been reported to have been harvested in at least 15 countries that use child and forced labor. Philip Morris International, which manufactures Marlboro cigarettes, has actually admitted that the fields in which the company buys their plants have at least 72 child laborers: the youngest being 10 years old. Tobacco is being harvested by children in countries today such as Mexico, the Philippines, Argentina, Brazil and Uganda.

2. Electronics

Apple and Samsung, two of the world’s leading electronics corporations, have recently went under attack for alleged use of child labor. In fact, Apple recently discovered multiple infringements of child labor with some of their suppliers, including one Chinese company that employed at least 74 children. Samsung, too, has been accused by labor rights groups for employee mistreatment and for exploiting child labor. The investigation, which looked into eight factories in China, proved some employees were working at least 100 hours per month of overtime and that children were “knowingly employed.”

1. Cotton

Cotton is produced by at least 16 countries which use child labor, including China, Egypt and Turkey, according to the Department of Labor. In fact, some of our most popular retail chains — from H&M to Wal-Mart to Victoria’s Secret — have been accused of benefiting from child labor. H&M, one of the world’s leading fashion chains, is currently under pressure to eliminate its ties with clothing suppliers that buy cotton from Uzbekistan, where large amounts of the plant are harvested by children.

Before you buy something, know where it’s coming from. Stand up for what you believe. Let’s put an end to supporting these corporations who take advantage of children just like our own.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: Huffington Post, Department of Labor, View Mixed
Photo: Bloomberg

According to a study by The Population Health Metrics, people living in poor neighborhoods are more prone to smoke at higher rates than those living in wealthier communities. An estimated 25% of adults with less than 12 years of education smoke cigarettes.

One survey shows that most people living in poverty want to quit smoking, but unfortunately it’s not as simple as “just quitting”.

Tobacco companies have been proven to promote smoking in lower income communities by lowering the price of cigarettes and flooding the neighborhoods with cigarette advertisements. In some cities, like Philadelphia, one can buy cigarettes for about $5 without tax.

The director of policy and planning for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Giridhar Mallya, stated that those living in poverty smoke to comfort his or her depression and stress.

For some, smoking is not just a coping method, but also a survival method. Lindell Harvey of Crum Lynne, Delaware smokes when he has run out of food.

Smoking enables the body to fend off the feeling of hunger. In Camden, New Jersey, 51-year-old Elaine Styles, a day-care worker who was laid-off, smokes so she doesn’t feel like she has to eat, “I make sure my family eats, then I have a loosie and go to bed.” A loosie is a single cigarette sold for about 50 cents.

Many wonder though, how do people living in poverty afford such an expensive habit? Buying cigarettes in low-income neighborhoods costs an estimated $1,000 a year with approximately 14% of income spent on cigarettes a year.

Nicotine triggers the part of the brain stem that causes one to feel comfort and safety. There are reasons behind the addiction that make sense once the dynamics of poverty are taken into account: the hopelessness of feeling trapped and the “limited sense of having a future,” says Elijah Anders, a Yale University sociologist.

There is hope for the future, though. Rates of smoking have dropped about seven percent between 2004 and 2012, with lower rates of teen smoking and a decline in adult smoking.

With more focus on poverty issues, the numbers are expected to steadily drop within the next few years.

– Becka Felcon

Sources: CNN, CDC, Philly
Photo: Blogspot

South America, the fourth largest continent in the world, arguably boasts the most impressive untapped natural resources in the world. South America has a solid agricultural background, and there could still potentially be room to grow.  It is one of the world leaders in agricultural production, and is in position to continue this trend for generations to come. Other South American countries have begun to follow the example Brazil has set in being the agricultural leader while the continent as a whole has profited from the benefits of exporting valuable food and other resources.

South America is a hotbed for agriculture for two main reasons; the rich untapped natural resources, and the various climates the continent possesses. The continent retains four climates, which range from tropical (wet and dry) to temperate (mild weather changes from season to season) while certain areas remain cold or arid.

The varying tropical climates cover over half of the continent with tropical wet and dry conditions occurring in the Orinoco River basin, the Brazilian Highlands and in a western section of Ecuador.

Many crops tend to thrive in the tropical areas of South America. Cashews and other kinds of nuts are cultivated in these regions, making them one of South America’s largest exports.

In fact, some of the world’s most popular fruits, such as avocado, pineapple, papaya and guava, are all produced in large increments in these tropical areas of South America. Not only do these edible, easy to manage crops improve South American agriculture, the continent has also become a strong resource of cash crops for the world.

Coffee was imported from the Old World in the 1800s and is grown in the highlands of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Nowadays, it is exported in large amounts from the key manufacturing parts of Colombia’s Cordillera Central, the basis of some of the world’s highest-quality coffees. The most notable native beverage, yerba maté, is brewed from the leaves of a plant indigenous to the upper Paraná basin. It is still gathered in its wild state in Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina.

Another cash crop, tobacco,  is cultivated in many countries but is produced commercially in large amounts in primarily Brazil and Colombia. The two most important native South American spices—allspice and red pepper—are exported from Brazil.

South American temperate climates are home to large numbers of livestock and other industrial crops. In these climates, corn runs as king of the crop. Corn is mass-produced in these areas, and is one of the biggest money-makers of the continent.

South America has steadily brought itself into an agricultural leader in the world. It produces many reliable crops and invests in the cash crop profits. By banking on the expansive natural resources, South America has found a model of success it can follow for generations to come.

 Zachary Wright

Sources: National Geographic, Mbendi, World Hunger, Inter-American Development Bank, Encyclopedia Britannica


$44 billion spent annually on tobacco.
$30 billion annual shortfall to end world hunger.

Last year, the American people spent upwards of $44 billion on tobacco products. It’s become such a problem that low-income New Yorkers are spending nearly a quarter of their annual salary to feed their cigarette addiction.

Incredibly, the aforementioned $44 billion does not include the health costs that tobacco products inflict upon its users. Now compare the tobacco expense with a study compiled by The United Nations, which estimated that it would take at least $30 billion per year to solve the food crisis.

According to the study conducted by The United Nations, the American tobacco addiction exceeds the annual required cost to solve the world-hunger crisis. Another study, conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP), calculated that $3.2 billion would be needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children.

The tobacco consumption problem is not a secret; most Americans do realize that tobacco addiction is an epidemic that deserves attention. While tobacco consumption has actually decreased in past years, $44 billion is a gigantic amount despite the positive trend. 18 percent of American adults were cigarette smokers in 2012, according to a report released by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The vast majority of hungry people (827 million) reside in developing countries. Asia has the largest trend of hungry people, but the number has been shrinking significantly the last several years. Africa, however, has not had the same luck. A third of the deaths that occurred in the last year in sub-Saharan Africa were caused by extreme hunger.

Americans continue to spend $44 billion on tobacco, yet many of these people do not give world hunger a second thought. The spending habits displayed by American tobacco consumers are both alarming and depressing; the amount spent on tobacco could provide the funds needed to solve the world hunger crisis on a yearly basis, and then some.

If the tobacco consuming Americans knew what their yearly expenses amounted to, would it change any mindsets? Would it be worth noting that the price of their addiction amounts to more than the estimated cost of ending world hunger? A deadly habit does not constitute more importance than the starvation of another person.

A call to action must be made for the hungry people in this world. If Americans can afford $44 billion to fund an unhealthy and dangerous addiction, can we not afford to redirect this money towards a more beneficial cause? America has the money and resources, yet tobacco spending curtails the potential America has to help others less fortunate.

– Zachary Wright

Sources: World Watch, New York Times, WFP, LA Times, THP
Photo: Cotton Salvage

tobacco control measures
Global public health policy has taken a step in the wrong direction as negotiations continue between the United States and 11 other countries regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

The United States Trade Representative (USTR), the primary U.S. governmental agency responsible for negotiating international trade policy, recently abandoned its stance that would have tightened regulations for tobacco companies regarding their ability to challenge domestic tobacco control measures.

The USTR’s backpedaling has enormous public health ramifications globally. According to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), over 1 billion people worldwide will die this century as a result of tobacco. That’s 11 percent of the globe’s population.

The USTR initially proposed language in the TPP that would have created “safe harbors” so that domestic tobacco control measures could not be challenged by the tobacco industry. Increasingly, “Big Tobacco” and its allies are using international trade agreements to dispute local tobacco control laws. For example, in Australia, tobacco companies are challenging the legitimacy of the country’s law requiring that cigarettes can only be sold in plain packaging. While in Uruguay, Philip Morris International is protesting the nation’s statute regarding the use of large, graphic health warnings on its packaging.

Moreover, the new USTR proposal does not even recognize tobacco as a uniquely harmful product that should be regulated differently than mangoes or coffee beans or some other generally benign commodity. The ruling fails to recognize the overwhelming global support for increased tobacco control measures. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which 177 countries have ratified, explicitly states that signatories are obligated to implement more stringent tobacco control measures.

Embarrassingly, the United States has not ratified the FCTC and appears to be headed in the exact opposite direction from the rest of the world on this matter. It comes down to a cost-benefit analysis – apparently the $145 billion of annual tobacco related revenue is worth more to U.S. policymakers than the health and well-being of billions of people worldwide.

The public health ramifications are particularly stark for people living in the developing world, where 49 percent of men use tobacco. Eleven percent of women in the developing world use tobacco products, and that figure is on the rise. The long-term health costs associated with tobacco related illness and disease for these individuals is astronomical.

The interconnectedness of public health and poverty alleviation is clear. A healthy population is much more likely to experience improved economic conditions than one that is hampered with enormous health care costs that they cannot afford.

As Dr. Oleg Chestnov, Assistant Director-General of the WHO, stated, “We have the tools and we have the will. Millions of lives stand to be saved–we must act together and we must act now.” His optimistic view is inspiring, but the USTR’s ruling on the TPP is certainly not helping his cause.

– Aaron Faust

Sources: American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, World Health Organization, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Council on Foreign Relations
Photo: CCTV

Russia Institutes Public Smoking Ban
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law that has created Russia’s first public smoking ban. People will no longer be allowed to smoke in restaurants, trains or entranceways into public housing. Additionally, beaches, children’s playgrounds and other public places are now off-limits to smokers.

The measure had been a significant part of the government’s plan for bettering overall public health. Its effects include rolling prohibitions on where people can smoke, as well as new limits on marketing and selling tobacco products. All but one member of the State Duma voted in favor of the bill.

Lung cancers are the fourth-biggest cause of death in Russia, and more than 40 percent of Russians smoke cigarettes. The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a study of smoking in Russia in 2011, and the results pointed out many of the deficiencies which this bill solves. For example, “the retail price of a pack of 20 of the cheapest brand of cigarettes in 2010 was 11 roubles.” This is the equivalent of 36 US cents or roughly one-third of the cost of a bottle of water in Moscow.

Russia’s new smoking laws on public smoking ban increase the minimum price allowed to be charged for a pack of cigarettes, hoping to reduce the amount people spend on tobacco while increasing the tax revenue for each pack sold.

Jake Simon

Sources: BBC, World Life Expectancy, Numbeo