HEALTH HAZARDS OF TOBACCO: SOME FACTS
- Smokers and non-smokers alike often do not fully appreciate the health risks of tobacco
use, particularly cigarette smoking. The latest epidemiological studies indicate that
death rates for smokers are two to three times higher than for non-smokers at all ages.
This means that half of all smokers will eventually die as a result of their smoking. If
current smoking trends persist, about 500 million people currently alive, nearly 9% of
the world's population, will eventually die as a result of tobacco.
- People who die from tobacco use do not die only in old age. About half of all smokers
who are killed by tobacco die in middle age. On average, these smokers who die in
middle age lose about 20-25 years of life expectancy.
About half of all tobacco-related deaths occur at ages 35-69 years, making tobacco the most
important cause of premature death in developed countries.
- Many of those who die from smoking were not particularly heavy smokers, but most
of them did start smoking in their teenage years.
- Smokers in their thirties and forties have five times as many heart attacks as non-smokers. Heart attacks are the main way in which smoking kills young tobacco users.
In industrialized countries, tobacco is responsible for 75-80% of all heart attack deaths
in young smokers under the age of 50.
"No single factor could have as much impact on the rising toll of cardiovascular deaths around
the world as tobacco cessation".
- Lower tar cigarettes do not substantially reduce the risk of heart attack in smokers.
- In the 1990s, smoking is estimated to be the cause of one in five male deaths from
cardiovascular diseases in developed countries (and about 6% of female CVD deaths).
- Smoking causes about 30% of all cancer deaths in developed countries (40-45% of
male cancer deaths, and 10-15% of female cancer deaths). On average, about 90-95%
of male lung cancer deaths in developed countries, and 70-75% of female lung cancer
deaths, are due to smoking.
- If all tobacco-caused cancer deaths could be eliminated, then death rates from other
of cancer for men and women would be similar in different industrialized countries and
would have shown a stable, or even slightly declining trend over the last three or four
- In 1995, WHO estimates that smoking was the cause of about 1.44 million male deaths
in developed countries, and 475 000 female deaths in these countries. This represents
one in four male deaths and about 10% of female deaths.
- Between 1950 and 2000, tobacco will have been the cause of over 60 million deaths
in the developed countries (52 million men, 10 million women).
By the end of the 20th century, cigarette smoking will have killed about 62 million people in
developed countries: 52 million men, 10 million women.
- Smoking is already causing about one-sixth of all deaths in developed countries. This
proportion is still rising, mainly due to the increasing epidemic among women. If the
proportion stays at or about one-sixth, then at least one-sixth of the population will
eventually be killed by tobacco. This means that about 200 million out of the 1.2
billion people living in developed countries will eventually be killed by tobacco.
- People substantially underestimate the risks of smoking. In populations, where tobacco
use has been common for several decades (e.g., men in the USA and the UK), tobacco
is likely to be the most important risk of death in middle age. For example, in the
United Kingdom, on average, among 1000 20-year-olds who smoke cigarettes
- about one will die from homicide (murder) before age 70
- about six will die from motor vehicle accidents before age 70
- and about 250 will die from smoking before age 70 (plus about another
250 deaths from smoking after age 70).
- In the United States, where homicide and accidents are more common, the risks would
be about six per 1000 from homicide, 12 per 1000 from traffic crashes, and 250 per
1000 from smoking (all before age 70).
- In the United States, it has been estimated that the annual risk of death from smoking
is about 7000 per million smokers, more than ten times the risk from alcohol
(541 per million drinkers), 60 times the risk of work-related fatalities, over 1000 times
the risk of death from air pollutants and 3500 times the risk of electrocution.
- Cigarettes consumption in developing countries has been rising among men over the
last three or four decades. In some developing countries, the health effects of this
increase in tobacco use are already evident. For example, in China, smoking is
estimated to be the cause of at least half a million deaths a year, mostly men (per capita
cigarette consumption in China has increased almost four-fold since the early 1970s).
- Most smokers live in developing countries. Of the 1.1 billion smokers in the world in
the early 1990s, 800 million (70-75%) live in the developing world.
- In developing countries 50% of men smoke (plus about 8% of women). The
proportions for men and women in the developed countries are 41% and 21%
- In developed countries the proportion of female deaths in middle age due to smoking
has increased six-fold since 1955, rising from 2% to 13% by 1995.
- Per capita consumption is falling in the developed countries at about 1.5% per year,
but rising in developing countries at about 1.7% per year. As a result, it is projected
that per capita (adult) cigarette consumption in the developing world will exceed
consumption in developed countries within the next decade.
- Passive smoking is a cause of additional episodes and increased severity of symptoms
in asthmatic children. Asthmatic children are up to 2.5 times more likely to have their
condition worsened by passive smoking. In the United States alone it is estimated that
200 000 to one million asthmatic children have their condition worsened by passive
- Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS or "passive smoking") is a risk factor
for new cases of asthma in children who have not previously displayed symptoms.
- The risk of lower respiratory tract diseases (such as croup, bronchitis and pneumonia)
estimated to be about 50-60% higher in children exposed to ETS during the first 1-2
years of life, compared with unexposed children. About 10-15% of lower respiratory
tract disease in young children under 18 months of age is attributable to passive
- In children, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is causally associated with
increased prevalence of fluid in the middle ear, symptoms of upper respiratory tract
irritation, and a small but significant reduction in lung function.
- Environmental tobacco smoke is a cause of lung cancer in lifelong non-smokers
exposed to ETS. Epidemiological studies carried out in several countries suggest that
the lung cancer risk is about 20-30% higher than for never smokers not exposed to
COMMITMENT TO THE TOBACCO-FREE PROMOTION OF
In the light of the consequences for health associated with the use of tobacco and its derivative,
and desirous of helping to improve the quality of life,
I undertake not to promote the use of tobacco and its derivatives in connection with sports
and/or cultural events.
Organizers of sports and/or cultural events and the officers of sports and cultural associations who make
this COMMITMENT and apply it in their work are authorized to use the logo of the "Tobacco or
Health" programme of the World Health Organization in association with World No-Tobacco Day, 31
May 1996, which will take as its theme "Sport and the arts without tobacco". The use of the official
logo commits users not to receive a financial or other contribution from tobacco manufacturers in any
form whatsoever and not to undertake any promotion for tobacco by any direct or indirect allusion to this
substance and its derivatives.