Time to quit | The Economist

Even though it is clear how to get people to stop smoking, rates are still rising in many countries—even some in the rich world.

For many Egyptian Muslims it is not the forgoing of food and drink during daylight hours that makes the holy month of Ramadan a difficult time: it is the corresponding restriction on smoking. Take Sayed, the manager of a modest Lebanese restaurant in Cairo. He has not eaten for nearly 16 hours and is surrounded by food. But after the muezzin calls out at sunset, he reaches for a cigarette. So does his staff. Of his 28 employees, only three do not smoke.

In much of the rich world, smoking seems to be doomed. In America, Australia, Britain, Canada and Italy, one in five or fewer people smoke (see chart). The better-off have mostly given up, and the poor are following. There’s a lag between a fall in the smoking rate and a fall in deaths from smoking, but even so in America and many other rich countries, smoking-related deaths are in decline.20150711_IRC888But in many poor countries, mostly in Africa, more people are lighting up. 20150711_IRC010According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) projection, a quarter of Nigerian men will smoke by 2025. For tobacco firms, Africa, where smoking rates are still low but incomes increasing fast, is turf worth fighting for. On July 2nd, in a case brought by British American Tobacco, Kenya’s High Court suspended the new tobacco rules that would have taken effect last month. They had been eight years in the making. The court found that the constitution required that the company be consulted.

And it is not just in the poor world that rates are increasing. In several rich countries, including Belgium, France, Germany, and Portugal, after years of decline, the trend has recently reversed or faltered.

Technology is cutting the cost of lending would-be quitters a helping hand. In Costa Rica and the Philippines smokers can sign up for automated text messages with tips on behaviour and lifestyle changes that make quitting easier. In a British trial, twice as many of those receiving such messages managed to break the habit than those who did not. Nicotine patches and gum have helped many to quit over the years. Now new nicotine-delivery devices are available, including electronic cigarettes. The market for them is booming, and they help many people quit. In Britain 7% of ex-smokers are using them.

“Nicotine is no more harmful than caffeine, and electronic cigarettes have far fewer of the harmful chemicals found in conventional ones.” John Britton UON

Read the full article in The Economist.

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