Tobacco Fact Sheet

by the World Health Organisation     Tobacco use is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. It kills more than five million people a year – an average of one person every six seconds – and accounts for one in 10 adult deaths. Up to half of current users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease.

 

More than 80% of the one billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest.

 

Tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of health care and hinder economic development.

 

In some countries, children from poor households are frequently employed in tobacco farming to provide family income. These children are especially vulnerable to "green tobacco sickness", which is caused by the nicotine that is absorbed through the skin from the handling of wet tobacco leaves.

 

Gradual killer

Because there is a lag of several years between when people start using tobacco and when their health suffers, the epidemic of tobacco-related disease and death has just begun.

 

Tobacco caused 100 million deaths in the 20th century. If current trends continue, it will cause up to one billion deaths in the 21st century.   Unchecked, tobacco-related deaths will increase to more than eight million per year by 2030. More than 80% of those deaths will be in low- and middle-income countries.


Second-hand smoke kills

Second-hand smoke is the smoke that fills restaurants, offices or other enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products such as cigarettes, bidis and water pipes. There is no safe level of second-hand tobacco smoke.

 

Every person should be able to breathe smoke-free air. Smoke-free laws protect the health of non-smokers, are popular, do not harm business and encourage smokers to quit.

 

Only 5.4% of people are protected by comprehensive national smoke-free laws.   In 2008, the number of people protected from second-hand smoke increased by 74% to 362 million from 208 million in 2007.   Of the 100 most populous cities, 22 are smoke free.

 

  • Almost half of children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke.
  • Over 40% of children have at least one smoking parent.
  • Second-hand smoke causes 600 000 premature deaths per year.
  • Children account for 31% of the deaths attributable to second-hand smoke.
  • There are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer.
  • In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it causes sudden death. In pregnant women, it causes low birth weight.


Tobacco users need help to quit

Studies show that few people understand the specific health risks of tobacco use. For example, a 2009 survey in China revealed that only 37% of smokers knew that smoking causes coronary heart disease and only 17% knew that it causes stroke.

 

Among smokers who are aware of the dangers of tobacco, most want to quit. Counselling and medication can more than double the chance that a smoker who tries to quit will succeed.

 

From information prvided by the World Health Organisation

 

RegisterRegister now to join the YourKidsEd e-mailing list for updates on new links and education information. It's FREE!!