From Our 2008 Archives

1 Billion Tobacco Deaths This Century?

Massive Death Toll Possible Unless "Urgent Action" Is Taken, Agency Warns

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 7, 2008 -- The World Health Organization (WHO) today warned that 1 billion people worldwide could die of tobacco-related causes this century unless "urgent action" is taken.

The WHO's report includes these global statistics on tobacco deaths:

  • 100 million people died of tobacco-related causes during the 20th century.
  • Tobacco currently kills 5.4 million people per year.
  • Tobacco use makes six of the world's eight leading causes of death -- including heart disease, stroke, and cancer -- more likely.

"Of the more than 1 billion smokers alive today, around 500 million will be killed by tobacco," states the WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008.

The WHO predicts that, without intervention, tobacco will kill more than 8 million people every year by 2030, and 80% of those deaths will occur in developing countries.

The WHO proposes six policies to reduce global tobacco deaths:

  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies.
  • Protect people from tobacco smoke.
  • Offer help to quit tobacco use.
  • Warn about the dangers of tobacco.
  • Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.
  • Raise taxes on tobacco.

SOURCES: World Health Organization, WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008. News release, World Health Organization.

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