Smoking is a major cause of death worldwide, responsible for around eight million deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Direct tobacco use accounts for around seven million of these deaths, with the remaining 1.2 million consisting of non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke. Despite the health problems associated with smoking, the global market is growing rapidly. With a current market size estimated at around USD one trillion in 2022, it is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.6 percent until 2030, reaching around USD 1.6 trillion.
The world’s most populous region, Asia Pacific, is also the world’s largest cigarette market by volume, containing five of the top ten national markets, including Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Japan, and Vietnam. Of these, China is by far the largest, representing around 70 percent of regional consumption in 2020. It is the largest producer and consumer of tobacco in the world, with more than 300 million smokers, or nearly one-third of the world’s total. Overall, the Asia Pacific tobacco market is anticipated to keep growing fast, with China in particular anticipated to maintain an above-average CAGR of 8.9 percent until 2030.
It is important for MNCs to understand the smoking-related healthcare challenges faced by territories across the Asia Pacific region, as well as the differing approaches taken by markets across the region toward handling the problem. This issue includes a regional policy overview, explores Australia’s noteworthy anti-smoking measures, and highlights this month’s World No Tobacco Day.
Rapid industry growth, high rates of health complications, and new trends such as e-cigarettes make smoking a complex challenge for national policymakers, which are taking a diverse range of approaches toward the issue across the Asia Pacific region. While countries such as Australia and New Zealand have enacted some of the world’s most comprehensive anti-smoking policy stances, others such as Indonesia remain comparatively lax. Below are a series of notable regional profiles from across Asia Pacific.
Australia has been a world leader in reducing smoking, and the rate of smoking continues to decline in adults, children, and adolescents. Less than forty years ago, smoking was a normal part of life in the country, and cigarette brands advertised freely. Over the past two decades, the Australian government has implemented a wide range of tobacco control measures to reduce smoking including plain packaging, staged excise increases on tobacco products, health warnings, advertising bans, educational programs, and support for smokers to quit, such as through nicotine replacement therapies on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Among measures, Australia’s tobacco plain packaging legislation has become internationally recognized as a major public health victory. Nearly all forms of tobacco advertising and promotion are prohibited by national and sub-national laws.As of December 1, 2012, plain packaging of tobacco products available for retail sale in Australia was required, making Australia the first country to mandate plain packaging. All tobacco products across the country must be packaged in a certain color, display required text and graphic health warnings, and may not feature any logos, branding, or promotional text. Three years after full implementation, approximately 25 percent of the decline in smoking prevalence in Australia was attributable to plain packaging. As of 2019, 16 countries, including France, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, and Thailand, have adopted plain packaging, and today more than 20 additional countries have started investigations into adopting plain packaging locally.
Now, fewer people are smoking in Australia than ever before. The 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report conducted by AIHW showed that in 2019, 11.0 percent of Australians smoked tobacco daily, down from 12.2 percent in 2016 and 24 percent in 1991. Next, Australia aims to reduce smoking prevalence to below 10 percent by 2025 and 5 percent or less for adults (≥18 years) by 2030. Despite this success, e-cigarettes and vaping products are becoming an increasingly serious issue in Australia. To continue its role as a leader in this domain, it is anticipated that Australia will adopt a strong stance again e-cigarettes and vaping products in future legislation.
World No Tobacco Day was created in 1987 by the Member States of the WHO to draw global attention to how the tobacco epidemic causes preventable death and disease. The day has been celebrated annually on May 31 ever since. This year’s theme, “We need food, not tobacco” is based on the notion that tobacco growing and production exacerbates global food insecurity. The WHO claims that globally each year, 3.5 million hectares of land are converted for tobacco growing, contributing to annual deforestation of 200 000 hectares. Heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers in tobacco cultivation further depletes soil fertility leading to soil degradation and desertification. The fact that four of the world’s ten largest tobacco cultivators are defined as low-income food-deficit countries is even more cause for concern when considering that the handling of insecticides and toxic chemicals causes farmers and their families to suffer from ill health, that unfair contractual arrangements with tobacco companies keep farmers impoverished, and that child labor is often woven into tobacco cultivation. For these reasons, to observe this year’s World No Tobacco Day, we observe the WHO’s call on governments and policymakers to step up legislation to enable conditions for tobacco farmers to shift to sustainable, nutritious crops.
As the world’s largest tobacco market, Asia Pacific will likely continue to be a key region in the development of global smoking trends in the coming years. MNCs are advised to keep close tabs on the region’s leading policymakers in this field, notably Australia and New Zealand, which are likely to influence legislative efforts around the world in this domain. As smoking rates rise in China, the government can also be expected to take stronger measures, which may be reflected in new healthcare initiatives or stricter enforcement.