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Tobacco use is the world’s leading cause of preventable death, according to the World Health Organization. Increasingly, the burden of tobacco use is greatest in low- and middle-income countries that have been targeted by the tobacco industry with its deadly products and deceptive marketing practices. The result: A global tobacco epidemic of preventable death, disease and economic harm to countries and families.

Tobacco Consumption

  • There are more than one billion smokers in the world.1
  • Globally, 21% of adults are current smokers (men 35%; women 6%).1
  • More than 80% of the world’s smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.1
    • 29% of men in high-income countries, 37% in middle-income countries, and 24% of men in low-income countries are smokers.
    • 18% of women in high-income countries, 4% in middle-income, and 3% of women in low- income countries smoke.
  • Globally, the number of youth aged 13-15 years who smoke cigarettes is estimated to be around 25 million, with almost 13 million using smokeless tobacco products.2
  • Cigarette smoking and use of other tobacco products is increasing in many low- and middle-income countries due to population growth and tobacco industry marketing.

Tobacco Health Consequences

  • 100 million people died from tobacco use in the 20th century. If current trends continue one billion people will die from tobacco use in the 21st century.3
  • Tobacco use kills up to half of all lifetime users.4 On average, smokers lose 15 years of life.5
  • Tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year.1 By 2030, the number of tobacco-related deaths will increase to 8 million each year.4
  • Tobacco-related illnesses account for 1 in 10 adult deaths worldwide. By 2030, 80% of those deaths will be in low- and middle-income countries.4

Tobacco Costs to Society

  • Smoking is estimated to cause about 1.4 trillion USD in economic damage each year.2
  • Costs associated with tobacco-related illnesses are extremely high. Total economic costs associated with smoking represent 1.8% of global GDP, and smoking-attributable health expenditure represents 5.7% of total health spending.2
    • In the United States, annual smoking-related health care costs amount to 170 billion USD.6
    • The total economic cost of smoking was 28.9 billion USD in China in 2008;7 16.3 billion USD in Canada in 2012;8 and 1.2 billion USD in Vietnam in 2011.9
  • Tobacco-related illnesses and premature mortality impose high productivity costs to the economy because of sick workers and those who die prematurely during their working years. Lost economic opportunities in highly-populated low- and middle-income countries will be particularly severe as tobacco use is high and growing in those areas.5
    • Global indirect costs of smoking are estimated to be about 1 trillion USD, nearly two thirds of which are due to premature mortality.2
    • In Ukraine, the productivity loss due to premature smoking-related mortality is at least 3 billion USD annually.10
  • Tobacco production damages the environment:
    • Tobacco plants are especially vulnerable to many pests and diseases, prompting farmers to apply large quantities of chemicals and pesticides that harm human health and the environment.3
    • Clearing of land for cultivation and large amounts of wood needed for curing tobacco cause massive deforestation at a rate of about 200,000 hectares per year.3

Download our fact sheet on The Global Tobacco Epidemic

1 WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2017: The MPOWER package. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2017
2 U.S. NCI and WHO. The Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Control. NCI Tobacco Control Monograph 21. NIH Publication No. 16-CA-8029A. Bethesda: U.S. DHSS, NIH, NCI, and Geneva: WHO; 2016.
3 Eriksen M et al. The Tobacco Atlas. Fifth Ed. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society; 2015.
4 WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2011: The MPOWER package. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2011.
5 WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008: The MPOWER package. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2008.
6 Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids. Toll of Tobacco in the United States of America.
7 Yang L et al. Economic costs attributable to smoking in China: update and an 8-year comparison, 2000-2008. Tobacco Control; 2011; 20(4): 266-272.
8Dobrescu A et al. The costs of tobacco use in Canada, 2012. Ottowa: The Conference Board of Canada, 2017
9 Anh PTH et al. Direct and indirect costs of smoking in Vietnam. Tobacco Control. 2014 December 15;0:1-5.
10 Ross H. Economic and public health impact of 2007-2010 tobacco tax increases in Ukraine. Tobacco Control. 2012 June;21:429-435.

Last updated Apr. 18, 2019