The facts about smoking and health

Fact sheet
29 May 2006


  • Smoking is the single biggest preventable cause of death.
  • Tobacco claims 4.9 million lives a year, and if the present consumption patterns continue, the number of deaths will increase by 2020 to 10 million, 70% of which will occur in developing countries.
  • There are an estimated 1.3 billion smokers and half of them (some 650 million people) are expected to die prematurely of a tobacco-related disease.
  • At the current rate, the number of smokers will rise from today's 1.3 billion to 1.7 billion by 2025.
  • Tobacco is an addictive plant containing nicotine, many carcinogens and other toxins. When transformed into products designed to deliver nicotine efficiently, its toxic effects, responsible for causing many diseases, are often magnified because the process of increasing exposure to nicotine often results in increases in exposure to the many poisons in the products.
  • Much of the disease and premature mortality caused by tobacco may be considered as side-effects of the disease of addiction. Tobacco dependence itself is a disease, described in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10).

Western Pacific Region

  • Tobacco kills more than 3000 people each day in the Region.
  • The Western Pacific has one third of the world's smokers, the highest rate of male smokers and the fastest increase of smoking among children and young women.
  • Smoking is among the leading causes of death and disease in Western Pacific Region.

WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

  • The Convention is a major public health treaty that gives people protection from tobacco for the first time by setting international standards on tobacco price and tax increases, tobacco advertising and sponsorship, labelling, illicit trade and second-hand smoke.
  • Entered into force on 27 February 2005; 127 countries have ratified the Convention, including 26 of 27 eligible countries in the Western Pacific Region.
  • Countries that signed up will be obliged to ban advertising and sponsorship promoting tobacco products, forbid sales to minors, force companies to print larger health warnings on cigarette packs, use taxation to reduce consumption and clamp down on smuggling.
  • The Convention has the potential to save over 10 million lives per year.