Each minute, smokers burn through nearly 11 million cigarettes and 10 perish from the habit – one approximately every six seconds. The United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) have set aside today as World No Tobacco Day. Following are a few facts to consider when measuring the impact of smoking on the world’s population.
Still, tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death. Active smoking or passive contact kills more than seven million people every year, according to the WHO. Cancers, heart attacks, strokes and lung diseases are the main health concerns associated with tobacco. Over the 20th century, tobacco claimed 100 million lives – more than the 60-80 million deaths during World War II and the 18 million in World War I combined.
At current rates, tobacco could account for up to a billion deaths in the 21st century, the WHO says. Smoking uses up almost 6% of world spending on healthcare as well as nearly 2% of global GDP, according to a January 2017 study in the scientific journal Tobacco Control. This amounted to $1.436 billion globally in 2012, 40% of which is borne by developing countries.
This year, World No Tobacco Day highlights the impact of tobacco use on heart disease under the banner: “Tobacco Breaks Hearts”. There are many reasons to focus on heart health.
More people die from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) worldwide than from any other cause, and tobacco use is responsible for about 10% of these deaths. Despite broad public awareness of the connection between smoking and cancer, less attention has been given to the cardiovascular risks of smoking, including heart attack and stroke. When a person quits smoking, among the most immediate effects are a drop in heart rate, blood pressure and carbon monoxide levels in the blood – all important indicators for heart health.
Moreover, the benefits of smoking cessation and tobacco control policies for heart health can be seen almost immediately. While cancer risk decreases steadily over years after quitting smoking, the risks for heart attack and stroke decline much more rapidly. Evidence from many countries, including the U.S., demonstrates that implementation of comprehensive smoke-free laws reduces hospitalizations for acute coronary events. In fact, the majority of deaths caused by secondhand smoke are from heart disease and stroke and can clearly be prevented by policies that protect non-smokers.
Much progress has been made in tobacco control since the first World No Tobacco Day in 1987, yet there is more work to be done. We must continue raising awareness about the harms of tobacco use and the benefits of going tobacco-free, especially in countries where the burden is greatest.
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