People smoke all sorts of things: tobacco, cannabis, cocaine, opium, methamphetamine and other substances. The most common drug smoked is tobacco.
In many countries, governments are making strenuous efforts to entice smokers to change their habits and you've probably noticed significant progress to this end. But you'd be mistaken to believe that smoking is on the decline. It is estimated there are over one billion smokers in the world and that number is increasing.
Good news for the tobacco industry shareholders but bad news for society's health.
From people who have done more research than anyone else
Tobacco use is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced.
Would you want to kiss this?
- Almost half of the world's children breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke.
- The epidemic is shifting to the developing world.
- More than 80% of the world's smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.
- Tobacco use kills 5.4 million people a year - an average of one person every six seconds.
- Tobacco kills up to half of all users.
- It's a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of deaths in the world.
Because there's a lag of several years between when people start using tobacco and when their health suffers, the epidemic of disease and death has just begun.
- 100 million deaths were caused by tobacco in the 20th century. If current trends continue, there will be up to one billion deaths in the 21st century.
- Unchecked, tobacco-related deaths will increase to more than eight million a year by 2030, and 80% of those deaths will occur in the developing world.
Source: World Health Organization
Every six seconds, somebody dies from tobacco. This page was opened 0 seconds ago therefore since the time you opened this page 0 people have died. This is not just a number - those were real people, who have really died, just now.
When those people smoked, they noticed the pleasurable effects caused by the smoke that triggered chemical reactions in nerve endings in the brain. What they didn't notice, until they were addicted to the nicotine, was the adverse effects on their health.
Smoke not only contains several toxic compounds, but also the incomplete combustion produced by burning tobacco creates carbon monoxide and this impairs the ability of blood to transport oxygen.
The sooner you smoke, the sooner you croak.
Smoking is my God-given right
Maybe. But other people have a right to clean air.
Smokers generally don't care about the discomfort and danger to others. If smokers don't care about their own health, they can't be expected to care about the health of others.
Smokers have a right to damage their own health. They do not have a right to damage the health of others.
Smoking is cool
Maybe. But there are cooler ways to die than smoking.
And an aesthetic note for those wanting to avoid a sallow complexion and wrinkles, it has been shown that smoking increases melanin and decreases blood flow in the skin, leading to a dull complexion, and also increases winkles around mouth and eyes.
Can anybody tell us why smoking isn't stupid?
Smoking makes you strong
deaths since you
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Early tobacco adverts, like practically every other consumer product, showed strong, healthy, sexy people with a cigarette or pipe in their mouths.
A hundred years ago, general life expectancy was lower than it is today and the adverse health effects of smoking were less obvious. But now the dangers have been proved, governments are steadily moving towards an outright ban. First to go were the "Smoking makes you strong" subliminal advertising. This was followed by "Smoking kills" posters, and then the litigation against cigarette producers began.
But all of this is in the relatively small populations of affluent countries. Low GDP countries understandably give low priority to anti-smoking measures, particularly when tobacco industries pump so much money into their coffers.
Smoking makes you wealthy
Tobacco adverts in developing countries, like practically every other consumer product, show people smoking who not only look strong, healthy, sexy people, but also wealthy.
To be fair to the industry, it is not their intention to deceive.
Cigarette companies do not want their customers to become ill. There's no Big Tobacco Conspiracy to take over the world. Just like other companies, they exist to make a profit. That is their mandate and their obligation to investors. And they use whatever legal means at their disposal.
The problem is, smoking kills.
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"Smoker's face" Model D. BMJ 291: 1760-2, 1985 and Yin L, et al. J Dermatol Sci 27: S26-31, 2001