The study, which covered enough representative samples to estimate tobacco use among 3 billion people, "demonstrates an urgent need for policy change in low- and middle-income countries," said lead researcher Gary Giovino, whose report was published in the British medical journal The Lancet.
The figures bolster statements by the World Health Organization that while much of the industrialized world, including the United States, has seen a substantial reduction in smoking in recent years, the opposite trend is under way in parts of the developing world.
Australian tobacco packaging laws misguided
This week, Australia's high court upheld a rule that tobacco products must be in plain packaging without logos and bear graphic health warnings.
Other success stories include New Zealand, Ireland, and Britain, said Tusan D'Espaignet. Two of the countries in the new GATS study Turkey and Uruguay are also showing improvement due to such measures, he said.
The study got some of its funding from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's philanthropy, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.
Bloomberg Philanthropies says that in 2007, it supported the WHO's efforts "to package and promote six proven policies to reduce tobacco use worldwide. These strategies including protecting people from tobacco smoke, offering help to quit, raising awareness about the dangers of tobacco through warning labels and public education campaigns, enforcing tobacco advertising bans, and raising the price of tobacco products are proven to reduce smoking rates. "
Since that initiative began in 2007, "21 countries have passed 100% smoke-free laws, the percentage of people protected from second-hand smoke has increased 400%, and almost four billion people worldwide are now protected by at least one of the six proven tobacco control policies," the group said.
By Josh Levs, CNN