In the next hour, 50 people will die because of tobacco. Tobacco is a risk factor for some 25 diseases, and while its effects on health are well known, the scale of its impact on global disease may not be fully appreciated. Tobacco as a risk factor is expected to make a greater claim on health than any single disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports the worldwide death toll from tobacco use is 4 million annually. This is far greater than the number of fatalities from all illegal drugs and alcohol combined. The death toll is expected to rise to 10 million per year by the 2020’s or early 2030’s, with 7 million deaths occurring in developing countries. The WHO estimates that there are approximately 1.1 billion regular smokers in the world, which is one-third of the global population aged 15 years and older.

Worldwide, 47 percent of men and 12 percent of women smoke a total of 6 trillion cigarettes a year. In the U.S., 600 billion cigarettes are smoked every year.

World Health Organization, 1999).

About four million people die worldwide each year as a result of smoking. In the United States, tobacco use is responsible for nearly one in five deaths, killing more than 490,000 Americans each year.

(Institute of Medicine 2007) This is more than the number of people who would die every year if three jumbo jets crashed each day with no survivors.

The report from the Institute of Medicine (2007) says that tobacco kills more Americans annually than AIDS, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, homicides, suicides, car accidents, and fires combined.

Nationally, tobacco contributes to about one-third of U.S. cancer, one-quarter of heart disease and about 490,000 premature deaths each year. Tobacco is a known cause of lung, bladder, mouth, pharyngeal, pancreatic, kidney, stomach, laryngeal, and esophageal cancer. About ten million people in the U.S. have died from causes attributed to smoking and tobacco use (including heart disease, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases) since 1964. Two million of these deaths were the result of lung cancer alone. Tobacco is the most global cause of cancer, and it is preventable. Despite widespread knowledge of the risk that tobacco exposure and use poses, it is single-handedly responsible for wide spread disease, rampant drug addiction, an alarming death rate, substantial economic burden and reduction of the quality of life worldwide.

Secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke kills as many as 62,000 Americans annually from heart disease. (CalEPA, 1997).

Measurements of the carbon monoxide (CO) concentration at a cigar party and a cigar banquet in a restaurant showed indoor CO levels comparable to those measured on a crowded California freeway.”

“Some 88% of the non-smoking U.S. population has cotinine(indicator of exposure to tobacco smoke) in their blood.” (Pirke et al., 1996).

Tobacco smoke is as dangerous to non-smokers as firsthand smoke is to smokers themselves. The EPA has classified tobacco smoke (containing 43 carcinogens) as a Class A carcinogen – a known cause of human cancer.

The detrimental health effects of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) are well documented and include lung cancer and coronary heart disease among adults, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome from exposure during and after pregnancy, and asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia in children. The EPA estimates that for between 200,000 and one million asthmatic children, exposure to secondhand smoke worsens their condition. Secondhand smoke can make healthy children less than 18 months of age sick; it can cause pneumonia, ear infections, bronchitis, coughing, wheezing, and increased mucus production. According to the EPA, secondhand smoke can lead to the buildup of fluid in the middle ear, the most common cause of hospitalization of children for an operation.

Oral cancer & tobacco

When tobacco and alcohol use are combined, the risk of oral cancer increases 15 times more than non-users of tobacco and alcohol products.”

Oral cancer can literally wipe the smile off your face…”

Studies indicate that there is a definitive link between the use of tobacco products and the development of oral cancer. One study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, found that more than eight out of ten oral cancer patients were smokers.

Approximately 54,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. More than 9,750 people die from oral cancer each year in the U.S. Oral cancer represents about 4 percent of all cancers and 2.2 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S. In the western world in general, oral cancer accounts for 2-6 percent of all malignancies. In Asia, oropharyngeal cancer is the leading cancer in men, and in Africa and Asia it is the third most frequent cancer site in women. The average five-year survival rate of patients with oral cancer is about 50 percent. This is primarily due to late detection of the disease. Early detection and prevention are the key to fighting this deadly disease.

Tobacco products, heavy use of alcohol and particularly the combined use of both, have been implicated as the main causes of oral cancer. A typical high-risk profile for oral cancer is male, over age 40, who uses tobacco and/or heavy alcohol. However, the male-female ratio has dropped from 6 to 1 in 1950 to about 2 to 1 at present. About 95 percent of all oral cancers occur in persons over 40 years of age. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 60. For preventive purposes, it is significant that oral cancer is largely a “lifestyle” disease, meaning the majority of cases are related to tobacco and alcohol use. This usage can be affected by proper education, counseling and treatment.

The tobacco industry continues to sponsor research that attempts to confound and deny the issue of tobacco related disease. The Council for Tobacco Research (CRT) a tobacco industry funded group, funds doctors and their research, to when possible, create doubt. While most of these are legitimate and credible researches who find the obvious – that tobacco causes disease, some have findings contradictory to the bulk of the published data. You can guess which articles the CRT gets behind to see that they end up in the mainstream media. This is a link to a peer reviewed article looking at the research funded by CRT published in The American Journal of Public Health.