25 Disturbing World Smoking Facts

How Cigarettes Affect Health and Society

Smoking Kills on a Cigarette Box

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If you are still on the fence when it comes to quitting cigarettes, think again. While you may think that it's an issue you can deal with later, the current evidence suggests that time is not on your side. 

While you should always approach smoking cessation as a positive step toward a longer and healthier life, it is equally important to understand the consequences of inaction. By doing so, you can make a more informed choice and take the steps needed to kick the habit once and for all. These numbers speak for themselves.

25 Global Smoking Facts and Statistics

  1. There are 1.3 billion smokers in the world today, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). If the trend continues, that number is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by the year 2025.
  2. Tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year, translating to one smoking-related death every five seconds. That is a million more deaths than occur each year as a result of HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.
  3. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 37.8 million smokers in the United States in 2016.
  4. Over 16 million Americans are currently living with a tobacco-related disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
  5. Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia are eight states where at least 21.8% of adults are smokers. In West Virginia, one of every four adults is a current smoker.
  6. More than 480,000 Americans die each year of smoking, accounting for one of every five deaths.
  7. On average, smoking will cut 13 years from your life expectancy. If you have HIV, that number will increase to 16 years.
  8. Lung cancer is not the only malignancy you can get from smoking. Others include cancer of the bladder, blood, bone marrow, cervix, colon, esophagus, kidneys, larynx, liver, mouth, pancreas, rectum, stomach, and throat.
  9. In addition to cancer, smoking can greatly increase your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
  10. Smoking is a problem that hits poorer people hardest. In fact, 80% of the world's smokers live in low- to medium-income countries. Even in the U.S., 24.3% of people living below the poverty line are smokers compared to 14.3% of those living above the poverty line.
  11. China is home to 300 million smokers who consume approximately 1.7 trillion cigarettes annually or roughly three million cigarettes per minute. One of every three cigarettes smoked globally is in China.
  12. Worldwide, around 10 million cigarettes are purchased per minute, 15 billion are sold per day, and upwards of six trillion are produced and used every year.
  13. A typical cigarette can contain anywhere from 8 to 9 milligrams of nicotine. By contrast, the nicotine content in a cigar can run anywhere from 100 milligrams to 400 milligrams.
  14. There is enough nicotine in five cigarettes to kill an average adult if ingested whole. Most smokers take in an average of 1 to 2 milligrams of nicotine per cigarette, of which 0.03 milligrams is absorbed into the bloodstream.
  15. There are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which more than 250 are known to be harmful, more than 69 are known to cause cancer, and 16 are classified as Group I carcinogens.
  16. Benzene is a major cause of acute myeloid leukemia. Not surprisingly, cigarette smoke is the major source of benzene. Among smokers in the United States, 90% of their benzene exposure will come from cigarettes.
  17. Radioactive lead, polonium, and hydrogen cyanide can all be found in cigarette smoke. History buffs will recognize hydrogen cyanide as a compound used in World War II as a genocidal agent.
  18. Of the 8 million smoking-related deaths reported around the world each year, 1.2 million are the result of secondhand smoke. Despite what some may tell you, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
  19. Tobacco costs the U.S. economy more than $300 billion each year. Of this, $170 billion goes toward medical care, while more than $156 billion is attributed to lost productivity due to illness and death.
  20. While fewer young adults are smoking cigarettes in the U.S. today, about 1,600 adolescents try their first cigarette every day. It's estimated that nearly 200 youth start smoking every day.
  21. Statistics suggest that 5.6 million children living today in the U.S. will die of a smoking-related disease. That is equal to one of every 13 children.
  22. There are approximately 399 million smokers in the the Western Pacific Region (comprised of East Asia, the Pacific, and Oceana), and nearly half of the adult men living there are current tobacco smokers.
  23. Only 20% of the world's population is protected by smoking laws, mostly in high-income countries.
  24. Globally, tobacco causes more than 7 million deaths per year, with estimates climbing to 8 million by 2030.
  25. The WHO has concluded that half of all smokers will die as a result of tobacco use.

If you're a smoker who is wishing to quit, make your mind up to dig your heels in and do the work need to stop smoking today. You will not regret it.

14 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. World Health Organization. Tobacco. 2020.

  2. Perez-Warnisher MT, Carballosa de Miguel MDP, Seijo LM. Tobacco use worldwide: Legislative efforts to curb consumptionAnn Glob Health. 2019;85(1):9. doi:10.5334/aogh.2417

  3. Jamal A, Phillips E, Gentzke AS, et al. Current cigarette smoking among adults—United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2018;67:53-59. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6702a1

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking & tobacco use fast facts. Updated May 21, 2020.

  5. Truth Initiative. Tobacco Nation: An Ongoing Crisis. Updated June 6, 2019.

  6. American Cancer Society. Benefits of Quitting Smoking Over Time. Updated November 1, 2018.

  7. American Cancer Society. Health Risks of Tobacco Smoking. Updated October 28, 2020.

  8. Zafeiridou, Maria, Nicholas S Hopkinson, and Nikolaos Voulvoulis. Cigarette smoking: an assessment of tobacco’s global environmental footprint across its entire supply chainEnvironmental Science & Technology. 2018;52(15):8087–94. doi:10.1021/acs.est.8b01533

  9. Mayer B. How much nicotine kills a human? Tracing back the generally accepted lethal dose to dubious self-experiments in the nineteenth century. Arch Toxicol. 2014;88(1):5-7. doi:10.1007/s00204-013-1127-0

  10. National Cancer Institute. Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Benefits of Quitting. Updated December 19, 2017.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2004 Surgeon General's Report Highlights: Smoking Among Adults in the United States. Updated July 15, 2015.

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Economic Trends in Tobacco. Updated May 18, 2020.

  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth and Tobacco Use. Updated July 7, 2020.

  14. World Health Organization. Tobacco in the Western Pacific.

By Terry Martin
Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction.