Tobacco accounts for one out of every 10 deaths worldwide and will claim 5.5 million lives this year, according to a report issued by the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation. By 2030, the number is estimated to grow to more than 8 million deaths.
These statistics on the use and costs of tobacco were published in the 3rd edition of the Tobacco Atlas. The publication is jointly produced by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the World Lung Foundation (WLF).
According to the report, unless measures are taken to stop new smokers from starting, and help those who smoke quit, an estimated 1 billion people will die from tobacco in the 21st century.
Some of the more sobering statistics detailed in the Atlas include:
- The total number of smokers is increasing mainly due to expansion of the world’s population; by 2030, an estimated 2 billion people will smoke.
- Almost 1 billion men and 250 million women worldwide smoke. In the U.S., 23 percent of men smoke (32.5 million) and 18 percent of women smoke (23.7 million). In the states, 12.1 percent of boys and 13.9 percent of girls smoke.
- About 35 percent of men in developed countries and 50 percent of men in developing countries use tobacco. Nearly 60 percent of Chinese men are smokers. Tobacco addiction is correlated with poorer, less-educated men.
- About 22 percent of women in developed countries and 9 percent of women in developing countries use tobacco. Although tobacco use among women is declining in developed countries, it is stable or increasing in a few southern, central and Eastern European countries.
- In 60 percent of the countries in the Americas, smoking is permitted in health-care facilities. This compares to a low of 22 percent in Western Pacific countries where this behavior is permitted.
- The smoking rate between boys and girls is not significantly different. Nearly one-quarter of young people who smoke tried their first cigarette before the age of ten. Easy access to tobacco products, low prices, peer pressure, approval of tobacco by peers, parents and siblings; and effective promotion by tobacco companies persuade youngsters to pick up the habit.
- China consumes more than 37 percent of the world’s cigarettes. China has an estimated 311.2 million male smokers, compared with 32.5 million male smokers in the U.S.
- The total economic cost of tobacco is estimated at 1 – 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in developed countries and up to 3.6 percent in middle-income countries (e.g., Poland, Egypt).
- Tobacco agriculture creates extensive environmental problems – pesticide and fertilizer runoff contaminates water and curing of tobacco leaf with wood fuel leads to massive deforestation.
The Bottom Line
Tobacco is the only consumer product that harms every person exposed to it and kills one-third to one-half of those who smoke. The tragedy is that these deaths are preventable.
Smokers die an average of 15 years earlier than non-smokers. Smokers have significantly higher risk of dying from several types of cancer (particularly lung cancer), heart and respiratory diseases, stroke and many other fatal conditions.
Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke imposes exceptional health risks on pregnant women, infants and children. Non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their heart disease risk by 25 to 30 percent and lung cancer risk by at least 20 to 30 percent.
If you or a loved one smokes, then seek help to kick the habit. Most importantly, if you have children, be vigilant about having them not start smoking. As many smokers will attest, once the habit is developed, it is very difficult to stop.
One you quit smoking; you can reverse some of the damage done. By one year, the risk of heart disease is decreased to half that of a non-smoker. After five to fifteen years, the risk of a stroke is virtually reduced to that of someone who has never smoked. And, after ten years, the risk of cancer declines significantly.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.