Tobacco

Probably the most widespread twentieth-century epidemic in Asia is TOBACCO smoking. Today, in most Asian countries, local, international, and especially American tobacco manufacturers are marketing their products aggressively—in part because of declining demand in North America and in part because of the increasing economic strength of the Asian countries. One result has been an increase in the consumption of tobacco products since the 1960s, especially the smoking of cigarettes.

Tobacco became a part of Asian culture from the time it was imported by Europeans from their colonies in the Americas during the 1600s. The ''hubbly-bubbly,'' or hookahs, of the Middle East and India were used for smoking tobacco. This was centuries before modern advertisement techniques were applied by the tobacco industry. But recently, tobacco-related diseases and deaths are becoming more prominent in the health statistics of Asia. This toll is connected directly to an increasing consumption of tobacco products. Part of the tobacco is imported from the United States and other international suppliers. Some observers noticed similarities to the situation in the nineteenth-century, when British traders aggressively fought to keep the lucrative opium trade from being interrupted. Some thus call for international agreements concerning tobacco trade, similar to those which helped curb the opium problem at the beginning of the twentieth century. International support seems to be needed to help these countries reduce tobacco-related problems.

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