GENEVA – Japan tops the list of cigarette-importing countries, bringing in around 83.5 billion cigarettes a year, according to a report released Tuesday by the World Health Organization.
France ranks second, importing 67.6 billion cigarettes a year, followed by Italy, at 56.5 billion.
The WHO released the figures in its newly published Tobacco Atlas, a position paper compiled for the benefit of policymakers who gathered here Tuesday to discuss an international treaty on tobacco control.
Tobacco kills 560 people every hour across the globe, equivalent to around 13,400 people per day, according to a WHO news release.
The report, produced jointly with the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicates that 52.8 percent of Japanese men smoke, the highest ratio among the Group of Seven industrial powers.
By contrast, the report states that only 13.4 percent of Japanese women are smokers, the lowest ratio among the G7 nations.
Overall, 33.1 percent of Japanese adults smoke, slightly lower than the 35 percent recorded in Germany and the 34.5 percent logged in France.
According to the WHO, the Pacific island nation of Nauru has the highest ratio of smokers per capita, at 54 percent.
China leads the world in terms of tobacco cultivation, devoting 1.44 million hectares of land to tobacco crops. India ranks second, with 460,000 hectares.
Meanwhile, the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals, an international nongovernmental organization that opposes smoking, said Tuesday it will present Japan with a “Marlboro Man award,” which NATT issues to governments or companies it deems to have most fiercely resisted antismoking efforts.
According to NATT, the tobacco business panel of Japan’s Financial System Council, an advisory panel to the Finance Ministry, published an interim report prior to the WHO meeting in Geneva stating that the proposed Framework Convention on Tobacco Control should not seek to reduce cigarette consumption.
The Marlboro Man is a fictional cowboy character created by the U.S. tobacco giant Philip Morris to spearhead its advertising campaigns.
NATT said it will observe the WHO negotiations, scheduled to continue until Oct. 25, and will announce “Marlboro Man award” winners on a daily basis.