A Global Health Epidemic

The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. According to The World Health Organisation (WHO) tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year. More than five million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while more than 600 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

Approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco, accounting for 1 in 10 adult deaths. Up to one half of current tobacco users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease, half in middle age and half in their senior years.

Tobacco use caused 100 million deaths in the 20th century. If current trends continue, it may cause 1 billion deaths in the 21st century.

Smoking Health Risks For Smokers

Smoking increases your risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions. Some may be fatal and others can cause irreversible long-term damage to your health. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and accounts for one-third of all cancers. Foremost among the cancers caused by smoking is lung cancer, the number one cancer killer of both men and women, and as many as 9 out of 10 people diagnosed with lung cancer can directly blame their smoking habit.

Other health hazards include:

  • Cancers of the mouth, kidney, oesophagus, pharynx, larynx, stomach, pancreas, cervix, ureter and bladder, and acute myeloid leukaemia.
  • Heart diseases including stroke, vascular disease, heart attack, and aneurysm.
  • Lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and COPD.
  • Eyesight problems and cataracts

Smokers are also more likely to suffer from periodontal disease, diabetes or insulin resistance, infertility and changes in their physical appearance, including premature ageing and wrinkled, pale, unhealthy skin.

Smoking is also a factor in the slowed healing of wounds and can worsen or prolong symptoms of asthma and respiratory track infections, such as the common cold and pneumonia. On average, non-smokers live about 10 to 14 years longer than smokers.

Smoking Health Risks For Non-smokers

Passive or secondary smoke increases risk for many diseases including lung cancer and cardiovascular disease in non-smokers, as well as increasing the severity of asthma in children and incidence of sudden infant death syndrome.

Pregnant smokers have an increased risk of stillborn, miscarriage, premature or low-birth weight infants. Children of women who smoked while pregnant have an increased risk for developing conduct disorders.

The U.S. Surgeon General estimates that living with a smoker increases a non-smoker’s chances of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.

Additional Life Expectancy For Those That Stop Smoking

At about 30 years of age > can gain 10 years of life expectancy.
At about 40 years of age > can gain 9 years of life expectancy.
At about 50 years of age > can gain 6 years of life expectancy.
At about 60 years of age > can gain 3 years of life expectancy.

After the onset of life-threatening disease there is rapid benefit for those that stop smoking. People who quit smoking after having a heart attack reduce their chances of having another heart attack by 50%.

Sources: World Health Organisation | US National Cancer Institute | UK National Health Service | American Lung Association | American Heart Association | Tobacco Almanac, Dr. Joel Dunnington | Center for Disease Control