Background: Tobacco use is a leading preventable risk factor for many chronic disorders, which are expected to account for an increasing share of the global disease burden. As part of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS), we aimed to assess the effect of tobacco use by young people on global mortality.
Methods: GYTS is a school-based survey of students aged 13-15 years. The survey was undertaken at 395 sites in 131 countries and the Gaza Strip and West Bank. We questioned students about current tobacco use, susceptibility to smoking among non-smokers, and exposure to secondhand smoke at home and in public places.
Findings: The difference in current cigarette smoking between boys and girls is narrower than expected in many regions of the world. Use of tobacco products other than cigarettes by students is as high as cigarette smoking in many regions. Almost one in five never-smokers reported they were susceptible to smoking in the next year. Student exposure to secondhand smoke was high both at home (more than four in ten) and in public places (more than five in ten). Never-smokers were significantly less likely than current smokers to be exposed to secondhand smoke at home (prevalence 39.1% [95% CI 36.6-41.6] vs 72.8% [64.0-81.6]) and in public places (49.5% [46.7-52.3] vs 81.2% [74.2-88.2]).
Interpretation: Our findings are troubling for the future of chronic disease and tobacco-related mortality. Reduction of tobacco consumption will require a redoubling of efforts to prevent initiation and promote cessation among the large proportion of young people who currently use tobacco. High exposure to secondhand smoke suggests a need for countries to pass strong and effective smoke-free policies.