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More people are smoking, survey finds. More people are smoking, survey finds.

Cigarette smoking up between 2011, 2016

Nearly 15 million Mexicans smoke, a figure that rose slightly over five years

Smoking rates in Mexico increased over the past five years despite campaigns, initiatives and laws to discourage tobacco use, a national survey reveals.

The 2016-2017 National Drug, Alcohol and Tobacco Consumption Survey (Endocat) showed that smoking prevalence among 12 to 65-year-olds rose slightly from 17% in 2011 to 17.6% in 2016. The average number of cigarettes an individual smoked per day also increased, from 6.5 in 2011 to 7.3 at the end of 2016.

The poll also revealed that far more men than women are smokers and that while the prevalence of smokers increased among the male population, it decreased among women.

Of 14.9 million Mexicans who smoke, close to 11.1 million are men and over the five-year period from 2011 to 2016, smoking rates increased from 25.2% to 27.1%.

Women make up the remaining 3.8 million of the nation’s smokers but the proportion of female smokers fell from 9.3% to 8.7% in the same time span.

On average, smokers spend 282 pesos (US $14.80) per month on their habit, the survey said. A packet of 20 cigarettes generally costs around 50 pesos (US $2.60).

However, it is not just smokers themselves who are endangered by the health risks that accompany the habit, the survey determined.

Although laws banning smoking in public places such as restaurants and bars as well as workplaces went into effect in 2008, the survey called their effectiveness and compliance into question.

The non-smoking population continues to be exposed to the risk of passive smoking in public spaces such as bars, restaurants, public transit, schools and workplaces, the survey said.

Part of the problem stems from a legal requirement to designate smoking areas in the same places that are otherwise smoke-free, while some states have not implemented the legislation.

Nearly 10 million Mexicans also reported that they are exposed to second-hand smoke in their homes.

Mexico City led the way in the implementation of smoking bans and three years after its own smoke-free ordinance went into effect, it had the lowest levels of second-hand smoke exposure in the country.  However, by 2016 levels had risen to be comparable with other states where the implementation of smoke-free legislation has been laxer.

The widespread flouting of a 25-year-old law designed to prevent the sale of single cigarettes also makes smoking more financially accessible. Fifty per cent of smokers surveyed said they buy cigarettes from vendors who sell them separately, usually for about five pesos (US $0.26) each.

More than 70% of those polled said that they supported raising tax on tobacco products and the survey determined that while three out of every 10 smokers were aware of telephone services to help them quit smoking, only 4% had used them.

With the highest proportion of smokers found in the 18-24 age bracket, reducing smoking levels and combating its negative consequences look likely to be issues that Mexico will continue to grapple with for many years to come.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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