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Background

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco use is the world’s leading cause of preventable death worldwide. Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year and accounts for one in 10 deaths among adults. Additionally, tobacco use contributes to 6 of the 8 leading causes of death worldwide, many of which are avoidable. An estimated $500 billion is spent each year on health care expenditures, productivity losses, fire damage and other costs due to tobacco use.

The tobacco use burden on global health is disproportionately distributed. More than half of the tobacco related deaths occur in low and middle income countries. Two thirds of tobacco use is attributable to just 10 countries: China, India, Indonesia, Russia, USA, Japan, Brazil, Bangladesh, Germany and Turkey. Asia Pacific is responsible for 60% of all tobacco use. Worldwide, more men smoke than women at a ratio of 4 to 1; however, increasingly more women are becoming smokers. As a result, many households are exposed to secondhand smoke, which is responsible for 600,000 more deaths annually – a quarter of which are children.

Less than 10% of the world’s population lives in countries that fully protect citizens with key tobacco control policies. Tobacco use killed 100 million people in the 20th century and, if current trends persist, tobacco will kill one billion people in the 21st century.

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