Background: The full extent of global smokeless tobacco (SLT) use and its association with key demographic factors such as gender, place of residence, and household or country income status is not yet known.
Methods: The global burden of SLT use among adults was estimated using nationally representative data of 140 countries by gender and country income group. Countries were grouped in Group 1 (low and low-middle income countries combined) and Group 2 (upper middle and high income countries combined). The number of male and female SLT users was calculated using prevalence and population estimates of corresponding age groups.
Results: Nearly one in 10 males and one in 20 females used SLT in some form. SLT use prevalence was significantly higher among males (p < .001) and females (p < .001) in Group 1 countries compared with their counterparts in Group 2 countries. However, for both Group 1 (p < .01) and Group 2 (p < .01), males were more likely to use SLT than females. Nearly 91% of a total 356 million adult SLT users resided in Group 1 countries, with 81.6% in countries of WHO South-East Asia region (SEAR). In SEAR and African region, SLT use was higher in rural areas and poorest communities.
Conclusion: The majority of the burden of SLT use is on lower and lower middle income countries with the greatest burden on the poorest segments of the population in these countries.
Implications: This study brings the comprehensive information on epidemiology of SLT use among adults at global level. Ninety percent of SLT burden is in low and low-middle income group of countries and more specifically among the poorest group in such countries. These countries need to have strategies to implement different provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The program in such countries should be targeted towards the poorest communities for effective SLT control.