Around 83.5 billion cigarette sticks were sold in Bangladesh last year – nearly 97% of that to retail customers and the rest illegally.
The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World's study "Tobacco Transformation Index 2020," released this week, revealed the numbers.
Bangladesh's retail cigarette sales were the second-highest among 36 countries in the index while China topped the list (87.5 billion).
Brazil (64.1 billion) and Russia (36.4 billion) came third and fourth in the ranking.
India and Pakistan were also included in the study. However, Bangladeshi consumers bought nearly three times more cigarettes from retailers in 2019 compared to the ones in India and Pakistan.
Last year, only 28.35 billion cigarette sticks were sold at retail in Pakistan and 28 billion in India.
And Bangladesh had more retail sales of cigarettes than Brazil, India and Pakistan did and just 4 billion fewer than China although its population is smaller than these countries.
One possible explanation for this could be the volume of illicit trade. Bangladesh had the least illicit cigarette sales in 2019.
And the sales of illicit cigarette in India were about 43 times higher than that in Bangladesh in that year and 28 times in Pakistan.
Also, many other countries with low retail sales experienced a spike in the illicit sale of cigarette sticks.
For example, Japan had only 49.3 million retail cigarette sales in 2019 while the illicit sales were about 125.1 billion sticks.
The index used Euromonitor International Passport's Tobacco database of 36 countries which accounted for approximately 85% of global sales and consumption of tobacco products.
However, the index is the first to rank the world's largest 15 tobacco companies based on relative performance, commitment and transparency to deliver material progress in supporting tobacco harm reduction.
Also, these companies are holding approximately 90% of current global tobacco product sales.
However, the index finds that most of the 15 largest tobacco companies are not making substantive progress in phasing out cigarettes and other high-risk tobacco products and transitioning smokers to reduced-risk alternatives.
A small group of companies have made public commitments to harm reduction and backed them with significant investments. But a majority of companies have made no such commitment, the study says.
Swedish Match, which divested its cigarette business in 1999, ranked first based on its performance on strategy and management, product sales, capital allocation, product offer marketing, lobbying and advocacy.
The company is followed by Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Altria, Imperial Brands, Japan Tobacco, KT&G, ITC Limited, Swisher International, Tobacco Authority of Thailand, Vietnam National Tobacco, Gudang Garam, Djarum, Eastern Co, and China National Tobacco Corp.
With 1.3 billion tobacco users in the world, of which 8 million die annually from tobacco-related diseases, the stakes for global health are high, the study reports.
Adult cessation and tobacco harm reduction could lower deaths within the next two decades, it said.