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Tobacco key facts and overview

Key Facts about Tobacco Use


- Mortality Rate: Tobacco use leads to the death of up to half its users who do not quit.

- Annual Deaths: Over 8 million people die each year due to tobacco, including approximately 1.3 million non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.

- Global Distribution: Around 80% of the world's 1.3 billion tobacco users are in low- and middle-income countries.

- Prevalence in 2020: 22.3% of the global population used tobacco, with 36.7% of men and 7.8% of women.


Leading Cause of Death, Illness, and Impoverishment


Tobacco remains a major public health threat, responsible for over 8 million deaths annually. Over 7 million deaths result from direct tobacco use, while about 1.3 million non-smokers die from second-hand smoke exposure. All forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no safe level of exposure. Cigarette smoking is the most prevalent form, but other products include waterpipe tobacco, cigars, cigarillos, and smokeless tobacco.


The majority of tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries, where tobacco-related illness and death are most severe. Tobacco use exacerbates poverty by redirecting spending from essential needs like food and shelter to tobacco, due to its addictive nature. The economic costs are substantial, encompassing healthcare expenses and lost productivity from tobacco-related diseases and deaths.


Key Measures to Reduce Tobacco Demand



Effective monitoring of tobacco use helps tailor policies to combat the epidemic. Nearly half the global population is surveyed about their tobacco use.


Second-hand Smoke

Second-hand smoke exposure causes serious diseases, including heart disease and lung cancer, killing about 1.3 million people yearly. Comprehensive smoke-free laws protect over a quarter of the global population in 74 countries.


Helping Tobacco Users Quit

Counseling and medication significantly improve the chances of quitting tobacco. However, comprehensive cessation services with cost coverage are available in only 32 countries.


Pictorial Health Warnings

Graphic health warnings and anti-tobacco campaigns deter tobacco use and encourage quitting. Over half the global population is covered by countries that meet best practices for these warnings.


Advertising Bans

Bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship (TAPS) effectively reduce tobacco consumption. About one-third of countries have implemented complete TAPS bans.


Tobacco Taxes

High taxes on tobacco products are the most cost-effective way to reduce use, especially among youth and low-income groups. Yet, only 41 countries have implemented high tobacco taxes.


Illicit Trade

Illicit trade in tobacco products undermines public health and economic efforts. Addressing this issue can increase tax revenues and reduce tobacco use.


Newer Nicotine and Tobacco Products


Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs)

HTPs produce aerosols with nicotine and toxic chemicals and are not proven to be less harmful than traditional tobacco products. Some toxicants in HTP aerosols are present in higher levels than in cigarette smoke.


Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)

E-cigarettes, the most common ENDS, contain harmful emissions and nicotine, posing health risks to users and those exposed to second-hand aerosols. These products are not safe, with potential risks for heart disease, lung disorders, and negative impacts on fetal development.


Nicotine Pouches

Nicotine pouches, similar to smokeless tobacco products like snus, are marketed as "tobacco-free" but still pose health risks due to nicotine content.

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