More than one billion people all over the world are currently active smokers, with 80.000 to 100.000 adolescents beginning to smoke every day. However, each year, around 7 million people die due to smoking-related illnesses, with 6 million being the result of direct tobacco use and 1 million from passive exposure to tobacco smoke (like secondhand smoking).1 What’s more, tobacco kills around 50% of its active users, which is a fact that brings up the question – do you really wish to bet against those odds? Smoking accounts for around 30% of all cancer deaths and up to 87% lung cancer deaths. This might not be as surprising since smoking increases the risk of getting cancer by 23 times and is associated with at least 15 different known types of cancer.
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Cigarette smoking statistics
Did you know that besides nicotine, cigarette smoke contains around 4000 other different chemicals? In the form of tiny smoke particles, they enter your lungs at high speeds and high temperatures, thus causing both temporary damage to the fine structures inside the lungs and long-term damage, by staying in the lungs and preventing effective recovery and regeneration of the damaged tissue. The inhalation of hot and harmful smoke particles is one often overlooked yet very important danger of smoking.
But what can be even more chilling is the prevalence of cigarette smoking globally. The statistics show that more than a third of the global male population is actively smoking and statistically, every 6 seconds, someone dies because of tobacco-related illnesses. This might not come as such a surprise when you keep in mind the fact that around 15 billion cigarettes are sold daily, or roughly, 10 million every minute2, contributing to about 744 billion dollars that tobacco industry earns annually. This number is bigger than the GDP of all but 18 most developed countries in the world.
In the EU, the proportion of daily smokers range from 7.5% in Sweden to 37.3% in Cyprus for men and from 8.3% in Romania to 22% in Austria. But, despite the fact that, on average, there are more male than female smokers, the gender gap is rapidly closing and in some countries, like the UK, Denmark or Netherlands, it’s less than 5%. The only exception to this is Sweden where there are 2% more female smokers than male.
When it comes to levels of cigarette consumption within the EU, the smoking statistics usually distinguish between heavy smokers who consume 20 or more cigarettes per day and light smokers who consume less than that number. Around 5.9% of European population can be classified as heavy smokers and 12.6% as light smokers, with the highest percentage of heavy smokers being in Turkey, Greece, Poland, Bulgaria and Cyprus. However, there are some countries where heavy smokers make up only a small and insignificant fraction of the population, with Finland leading in this category with 0% heavy smokers among the population.
Cardiovascular diseases & smoking statistics
What is less known is that cardiovascular diseases caused by smoking kill even more smokers than cancer does and many medical experts claim that coronary heart disease is one of the biggest dangers of smoking. Toxins in the tobacco cause inflammation and hardening of the arteries, significantly increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. These conditions and complications related to them lead to even more deaths than lung cancer does, further reducing the possibility of a long life.
Smokers are twice as likely to get a heart attack compared to people who have never smoked. In fact, out of every three deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases, one of them is directly related to smoking.3 And even when you do stop, it takes some time for the heart and blood vessels to recover. But, the good news is that researchers have shown that there is a considerable decrease in coronary heart disease mortality for former smokers, as opposed to continuing smokers4 so the faster you act, the more likely are you to significantly improve your health and reduce the risks associated with this bad habit.
Tobacco industry statistics
The 744 billion dollars earned annually by the tobacco industry is mostly split between four largest tobacco companies – Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco. The largest producer by volume is China National Tobacco Co. with Indian and Brazilian companies not so far behind. Every year, about 6.7 million tons of tobacco are produced throughout the world. The top producers of tobacco are China with 39.6% globally produced tobacco, India with 8.3%, Brazil with 7.0% and the United States with 4.6%. Other important producer countries include Pakistan, Indonesia, Argentina and Malawi.
Smoking statistics by age
Among young teens, aged from 13 to 15 years, globally about one in five smokes, with between 80.000 and 100.000 children smoking their first cigarette every day, roughly half of them being situated in Asia. According to studies, around 50% of those who start smoking at a young age go on to smoke for the next 15 or 20 years before successfully stopping. And what is even more frightening is that the polls show that teenagers are mostly unfamiliar with the dangers of smoking. But on the other hand, statistics also show that smoking prevalence gradually diminishes in older age groups, thus proving that people are successfully quitting their habit.
Smoking statistics by socio-economic group
It probably comes as no surprise that smoking is significantly more prevalent among those population groups with lower income and this relation is preserved on a larger scale, with smoking gradually decreasing in developed countries, but increasing in the developing ones, with South Asia and Oceania being most hardly affected by the smoking epidemic. And while cigarette consumption has decreased in Europe between 1990 and 2009 by 26%, it has increased in Africa and the Middle East by staggering 57%. What’s more nicotine addiction has an impact on poverty and development and this is another “hidden” danger of smoking. In poorer countries, up to 30% of income is spent on tobacco, reducing funds available for nutrition, education and healthcare. But tobacco epidemic isn’t just a threat to individuals, but also to whole countries and even the global economy since tobacco products deprive the world of 1-2% of its GDP annually.
Benefits of quitting smoking
Let’s end this chilling overview of smoking statistics and dangers of smoking on a more positive note. What happens in your body once you do stop smoking? Sure, you’ll be healthier, live longer, and reduce the risk of multiple serious health issues. But, did you know that there are also immediate benefits, improvements which manifest as soon as you put out your last cigarette. Here is a short overview of those immediate benefits of quitting smoking which will give you a greater appreciation of your body’s ability to repair the damage.
Within 20 minutes of your last cigarette, your pulse rate, as well as the temperature of your hands and feet returns to normal. After 8 hours without smoking, the remaining nicotine in your bloodstream has fallen to 6.25% of normal peak daily levels, making a 93.75% reduction. 12 hours later, your blood oxygen level increases and carbon monoxide decreases, reaching a normal balance. Within 24 hours of quitting, anxiety will peak in intensity and it will take two weeks for it to completely disappear. After just 48 hours, damaged nerve endings are starting to regrow and your sense of smell and taste are beginning to return to normal. By this time, cessation anger and irritability will have peaked and it will only get easier. Within 72 hours, your body is 100% nicotine free! By this time, the worst symptoms of withdrawal as well as cravings have passed and won’t be coming back with the same intensity. At the same time, lung bronchial tubes leading to alveoli are beginning to relax and lungs can finally begin the long process of cleaning and healing the damage done by smoking. Breathing is becoming easier and your lungs’ functional abilities are starting to increase.
So, make a choice today and stop smoking, and experience the benefits of quitting smoking first-hand! The only other alternative is becoming a part of those much grimmer statistics.