WHO Report: Smoking and Drinking Cause Millions of Deaths Worldwide

Almost six million people die from tobacco use and 2.5 million from harmful use of alcohol each year worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports.

The WHO report on non-communicable diseases—including diabetes, cancer and respiratory and heart diseases—says that a large percentage of these conditions could be prevented by reducing tobacco and alcohol use, eating a healthier diet and exercising more.

According to Reuters, the report explains that tobacco is expected to kill 7.5 million people worldwide by 2020, accounting for 10 percent of all deaths. Smoking causes an estimated 71 percent of lung cancers, 42 percent of chronic respiratory disease and almost 10 percent of cardiovascular disease, the report states.

Alcohol-related deaths account for 3.8 percent of all deaths worldwide, according to the report. More than half of these deaths occur from non-communicable diseases including cancer, heart disease and liver cirrhosis.

To reduce tobacco use, WHO recommends strategies including tobacco tax increases, distributing information about the health risks of smoking, restrictions on smoking in public places and workplaces, and comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

To reduce harmful alcohol use, WHO recommends a number of measures including increasing excise taxes on alcoholic beverages, regulating availability of alcoholic beverages (including minimum legal purchase age), restricting exposure to marketing of alcoholic beverages through marketing regulations or comprehensive advertising bans, and treatment of alcohol use disorders and brief interventions for hazardous and harmful drinking.

7 Responses to WHO Report: Smoking and Drinking Cause Millions of Deaths Worldwide

  1. Brinna Nanda | April 28, 2011 at 1:45 am

    And these figures would be compared to zero-deaths from the use of cannabis by millions around the world. So, why, for the love of all that is holy, do we not actively encourage the substitution of these two deadly recreational vehicles (alcohol and tobacco), with comparatively harmless cannabis? Yes, I know the “how can we sanction another mind altering drug” rant, and the “substitution is no answer” argument, but seriously, folks, 8.5 million dead bodies (annually) cry out for an approach that is radically different from what we have been doing for the last 100 years.

    • E.J. | April 28, 2011 at 10:04 am

      There was a time when cigarettes and other tobacco products were thought to be harmless much like the uninformed believe today about marijuana. Now tobacco is on track to be the known cause of 10% of all deaths in the world.

      There is research announced all the time connecting marijuana use with cancer, mental illness, and other diseases. This is primarily due to there being marijuana users/addicts that for the most part use only marijuana. This allows researchers to isolate the cause of an illness or the likelihood of an illness.

      Marijuana like alcohol causes intoxication. This in turn increases traffic deaths and accidental deaths of those who are under the influence. In the area of physical and mental impairment research is showing that reaction time, visual tracking and cognitive functioning are acutely affected in when the user/addict is not “high”.

      The only good that is going to come from legalization of marijuana in any capacity is more research on how deadly it is.

      • hamish2112 | December 31, 2013 at 10:21 pm

        I find it amazing that suddenly the number 2 cause of lung cancer in the US is now linked to Radon gas instead of 2nd hand smoke (formerly Radon was so low a risk it was rarely if ever mentioned) and that smoking is at an all time low, while still harping on all evil ‘big tobacco’ and at the same time levying all manner of taxes on smokers. Talk about flogging a dying horse.

  2. Janet | April 28, 2011 at 10:14 am

    One marijuana cigarette (joint, number, etc.) smoked is like smoking 200 cigarettes. What is Brina Nanda talking about anyway? Marijuana is not harmless, but thank God, it just isn’t used as much. If used by youth, it can trigger schizophrenia within 3 years of use, too. That’s all we need, more crazy people running around because someone said Marijuana, it doesn’t do any damage to anyone.

  3. maxwood | April 28, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    From the topic of death statistics the present discussion slid into scare comparisons of a different herb or drink, partly I think because the WHO has lacked courage to tackle the primary issue: chronic overdose habit formation promoted for corporate profit– using any trick to orient young users to “being cool” by showing off a tolerance for overdose, for example 23.5-ounce cans of an over-10% beer product. An example of an alternative non-overdose alcohol use would be to carry a wee container of less than 3 ounces of strong beer (bitters etc.) around in a shirt pocket and take a sip from it now and then. (There is presently no profit-oriented company trying to market this idea, I know.) In tobacco the killer is the hot-burning overdose (usually 700-mg. per light-up) high-profit $igarette format. The WHO could urge users to switch to e-cigarette, vaporizer or a 25-mg. one-hitter (see below). Non-inhalant cigars and pipes and “smokeless” tobacco products are widely recognized as far less harmful. Finally the potential harm some see in cannabis could be prevented by eliminating the hot burning overdose “joint” (which in some countries
    contains admixtures of tobacco anyway) and switching to the one-hitter or vaporizer.

  4. sheila | April 28, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    And the WHO got HOW MUCH from nicotine replacement pharma for this amazing press release? And again NO back up evidence of any study to prove anything! Science by press release, brought to you by your friendly neighborhood legal drug pusher. Use THEIR nicotine. Use THEIR drugs instead of drinking a beer! Thank you WHO.

  5. Aaron Hart | May 12, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    My last statement regarding marijuana and schizophrenia was directed at Janet, and not this article. Though I do feel the overuse and abuse of anything (really anything, food, the gym, sex, anything…) has serious detrimental effects. Things you put in your body just have a more measurable effect than most things

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