Global smoking deaths up by 5 per cent since 1990: study

PHOTO: The Business Times

PARIS - The percentage of men and women who use tobacco every day has dropped in most nations since 1990, but the total number of smokers and tobacco-related deaths has increased, a consortium of researchers reported Thursday.

Mortality could rise even further as major tobacco companies aggressively target new markets, especially in the developing world, they warned in a report, published in the medical journal The Lancet.

One in four men and one in 20 women smoked daily in 2015, according to the Global Burden of Diseases report, compiled by hundreds of scientists.

That was a significant drop compared to 25 years earlier, when one in three men, and one in 12 women, lit up every day.

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But the number of deaths attributed to tobacco - which topped 6.4 million in 2015 - went up by 4.7 per cent over the same period due to the expanding world population, the report found.

More than 930 million people smoked daily in 2015, compared to 870 million in 1990 - a seven per cent jump.

Smoking causes one in ten deaths worldwide, half of them in just four countries: China, India, the United States and Russia.

Together with Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Japan, Brazil, and Germany, they account for fully two-thirds of global tobacco use.

"Smoking remains the second largest risk factor for early death and disability" after high blood pressure, said senior author Emmanuela Gakidou from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, in the US northwest.

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Some countries have seen sharp reductions in smoking driven by some combination of higher taxes, education campaigns, package warnings and programmes to help people kick the nicotine habit.

Brazil was among the leaders over the 25-year period examined, with the percentage of daily smokers dropping from 29 to 12 per cent among men, and from 19 to eight per cent among women.

But Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines - where 47, 38 and 35 per cent of men smoke, respectively - saw no change from 1990 to 2015.

15 sneaky ways smoking ruins your life

  • Lighting up is a guaranteed way to premature aging and accelerating your journey to the grave.
  • The chemicals in tobacco smoke is said to trigger the destruction of collagen and elastin, which are fibers that give your skin its strength and elasticity.
  • According to doctors, inhaling tobacco smoke weakens the building blocks of the skin, resulting in saggy skin and deeper wrinkles.
  • On top of losing the elasticity of the skin that creates deep lines around the lips, smokers often get something called a "smoker's pucker".
  • When smokers suck air through a cigarette, they repeatedly use a certain set of muscles around their lips. Combined with the loss of skin elasticity, this causes the smoker's pucker.
  • Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss. But did you know that the link between smoking and ARMD is as strong as the link between smoking and lung cancer?
  • Toxins associated with smoking can restrict blood flow to the tiny capillaries in the eyes, cutting off vital nutrients and oxygen. It can cause cataracts, glaucoma, Graves' ophthalmopathy and diabetic retinopathy, among many other serious eye conditions.
  • Age spots are blotches of darker colour on your skin that betray your age.
  • Research suggests that smokers may be more susceptible to developing these unsightly spots.
  • Smoking can accelerate the process of thinning hair.
  • Some studies have even suggested that people who smoke are more likely to go bald.
  • Psoriasis is a chronic condition that causes thick, red skin with flaky, silver-white patches called scales. It usually occurs on the knees, elbows, scalp, hands, feet or back.
  • Recent studies have shown that not only can cigarettes worsen psoriasis symptoms, but a number of researchers believe that they may actually cause psoriasis in some patients.
  • Smoking can weaken your bones through osteoporosis - the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time.
  • This increases the risk of bone fractures.
  • More alarmingly, the bones in the spine can also be affected.
  • Osteoporosis can cause the spine to curve and result in a hunched back.
  • \Smoking causes the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart to become narrower over time, ups blood pressure and makes it easier for the blood to clot.
  • All these increases your odds of getting a heart attack.
  • The impact on the heart, lungs, blood circulation and bones all add up to a poorer performance on the track.
  • Smokers tend to suffer from a more rapid heart rate and shortness of breath even after just a mild workout.
  • In men who smoke, the reduced blood flow can also affect their manhood, leading to an increase in the likelihood of impotency.
  • In women, it can lead to difficulty conceiving and giving birth to a healthy baby. Smoking during pregnancy increases the chances of miscarriage, premature birth or delivering a low-birth-weight baby.
  • As mentioned, smoking causes the skin to lose its elasticity. This not only occurs on the face, but also on the body.
  • Research has pointed out that smoking is one of the top causes of sagging breasts and flabby underarms.
  • According to WebMD, compared to nonsmokers, smokers are more likely to develop oral cancer. Smokers who are also heavy drinkers are 15 times more likely to develop oral cancer.
  • But all is not lost, doctors say quitting smoking lowers the risk of oral cancer substantially within a few years.
  • While most women experience this in their twilight years, a study has found that on average, women who smoke reach menopause 1.5 years earlier than those who don't.
  • The longer you have smoked and the more you smoke, the stronger this effect is likely to be, the study said.
  • Smoking gives your fingernails and skin of your hands a yellowish tint. It doesn't stop there. Smokers are more likely to develop bad breath, gum disease and other oral hygiene issues.
  • Still think smoking is sexy? Think how sexy you'll look with a gaping smile. Smokers are twice as likely to lose teeth than non-smokers.

In Russia - where tobacco control policies were not put into place until 2014 - the percentage of women who smoke climbed by more than four per cent over the same period.

Similar trends are emerging in much of Africa, the authors cautioned.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) projects that the number of men and women smoking in sub-Saharan Africa will go up 50 per cent by 2025, compared to 2010 levels.

"Future mortality in low- and middle-income countries is likely to be huge," John Britton from the University of Nottingham's UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies wrote in a comment, also in The Lancet.

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Responsibility for the global tobacco epidemic lies mainly with a handful of multinational based in rich countries, he said.

"The modern tobacco industry profits from enslaving children and young people in poor countries into a lifelong addiction, and ultimately taking their lives for profit," he told AFP.

The global response - including a 180-nation "tobacco control" treaty inked in 2005 - has focused mostly on users and not the supply, he added.

The WHO has noted that "tobacco is the only legal drug that kills many of its users when used exactly as intended by the manufacturers."

It is estimated that half of daily smokers will die prematurely due to their tobacco habit unless they quit.

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