More smokers worldwide

 

The survey estimated that 6.25 trillion cigarettes were smoked in 2012, compared to 4.96 trillion in 1980.

The survey estimated that 6.25 trillion cigarettes were smoked in 2012, compared to 4.96 trillion in 1980.

by Mary Budinger  — 

More people smoke worldwide today than in 1980, mainly because of population growth and gains in popularity of cigarettes in countries such as China, India and Russia, according to data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The comprehensive study coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. Surgeon General’s report on the risks of smoking and measured data from 187 countries.

The survey estimated that 6.25 trillion cigarettes were smoked in 2012, compared to 4.96 trillion in 1980. With Earth’s population having more than doubled in the last 50 years to seven billion, there are simply more people to take up the habit. Some of the highest smoking rates are now seen in the developing world.

“Low and middle-income countries in particular face an enormous challenge to fend off the powerful tobacco industry and stop smoking rates from escalating,” said Amanda Sandford of Action on Smoking and Health.

The country of East Timor in Southeast Asia tops the list, with 61 percent of its population smoking every day. The twin Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda are at the bottom of the list at 5 percent.

Russia, where about one-third of people smoke, added one million smokers since 1980. China had 182 million smokers in 1980 and nearly 282 million in 2012. India gained 35 million smokers, even though the smoking rate fell from 19 to 13 percent of the population.

The United States, New Zealand, Australia and Britain were in the top 10 countries for where smoking rates dropped. The U.S. smoking rate went from 30.6 percent in 1980 to 15.8 percent in 2012.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates tobacco-related illnesses kill 5 million people a year worldwide — more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

In the U.S., about 20.8 million people have died from smoking-related diseases in the last 50 years. This is 10 times the number of Americans who have died in all of the nation’s wars combined, according to a report released January 17, 2014, by the U.S. Surgeon General. Today, heart disease claims more lives of smokers 35 years and older than lung cancer. Smoke-free laws have been linked to reductions in heart attacks.

“We are still finding out new ways that tobacco maims and kills people,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Tobacco is even worse than we knew it was.”

Source: JAMA, January 7, 2014 and U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, January 17, 2014.

 

Mary Budinger is an Emmy award-winning journalist who writes about integrative medicine.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 33, Number 1, February/March 2014.

 

 

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