Global Smoking Statistics

Current Trends and Statistics You May Not Know

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Tobacco use has reached epidemic proportions worldwide, and, despite efforts to reverse smoking trends, the problem only seems to be getting bigger each year.

While smokers know full well that cigarettes offer nothing but harm to their health, they will ignore every warning until something suddenly clicks and tells them that it's time to stop. So, instead of just looking at the benefits of quitting, here are some cold, hard facts that may put the scale of the problem into perspective:

The Tobacco Industry Today

Around 6.5 trillion cigarettes are sold around the world each year, which translates to roughly 18 billion cigarettes per day. It is a lucrative industry and one that makes its fortunes largely off the back of the poorest people in the world, both in terms of supply and demand.

Of the estimated one billion smokers in the world, 80 percent live in low- and middle-income countries. Of the estimated 33 million tobacco farm workers in the industry, a substantial proportion live in the poorest communities and regions.

In some of these countries, even children are forced to work in the fields to help pay the family bills. This places them and the other farm workers at risk of green tobacco sickness, an illness caused by absorption of nicotine through the skin from the handling of wet leaves.

While the United States has significantly decreased its share of tobacco farming from over 180,000 farms in the 1980s to just over 10,000 today, it is still the fourth largest producer in the world.

This despite the fact that smoking-related diseases cost the U.S. more than $300 billion per year.

China, India, and Brazil are today the three largest tobacco-producing countries. Not surprisingly, it is within these many of these nations that smoking awareness is at its lowest.

For example:

  • A 2009 survey in China showed that only 38 percent of smokers knew that smoking could cause heart disease while only 27 percent knew that it could lead to a stroke.
  • Similarly, more than 25 percent of the population of Bangladesh, India, the Netherlands, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam were unaware of the association between smoking and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Meanwhile, 17 percent of smokers in New Zealand, 14 percent in France, and 13 percent in the United States were unaware of the cardiovascular risks of smoking despite the fact that heart disease—and not lung cancer—is the number one killer of smokers.

Current Health Statistics

While smokers often will often assume that lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases are a "roll of the dice" beyond their control, consider these facts:

  • Tobacco today kills around half of all smokers.
  • Globally, tobacco causes six million deaths per year. That's one death every five seconds.
  • Of the total number of deaths, 600,000 are among non-smokers who had been exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • By 2030, if the trend continues, the number of deaths will rise to eight million.
  • Smoking is the direct cause of one of every five deaths in the U.S. That translates to roughly 480,000 deaths annually, 1,300 smoking-related deaths per day, 54 deaths per hour, or almost one death per minute.
  • Every cigarette you smoke cuts five to 11 minutes from your life. Over a lifetime, that can reduce your life expectancy by as much as 12 years.
  • Around 25 percent of all heart disease deaths and 75 percent of lung disease deaths are directly attributed to smoking irrespective of any other cause.

Youth Smoking Statistics

Not all of the news is bad. It was in 1997 that smoking reached its peak among American youth with 36.4 percent reporting that had given cigarettes a try. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that figure has since plummeted to just over 10 percent.

Despite these gains, the outlook is far from rosy. Among the CDC findings:

  • Every day, 3,200 Americans under 18 will light up their first cigarette.
  • Of these, 2,100 will go on to become full-time smokers.
  • Nearly nine out of every 10 smokers in the U.S. tried their first cigarette before the age of 18.
  • The increasing popularity of flavored tobacco is believed to be the next public health threat among teens and adolescents. As of 2014, 73 percent of high school smokers and 56 percent of middle school smokers reported the use of a flavored tobacco.
  • Meanwhile, 4.3 percent of middle school students and 11.3 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes.
  • Additionally, 2.2 percent of middle school students and 5.8 percent of high school students reported using chewing tobacco, a practice strongly linked to oral cancer.

A Word From Verywell

Despite the downbeat statistics, most smokers in the U.S. understand the enormous dangers of smoking. In fact, according to the CDC, nearly 70 percent of American smokers want to quit and around 40 percent have made at least one attempt to quit in the past year.

The challenge, of course, is that it may take up to 30 attempts before a person is able to stop, say researchers from the John Hopkins School of Public Health. It can be an arduous process but one that can ultimately improve your health no matter how many years you have smoked. In the end, it is never too late to quit.

If you are a smoker and are ready to stop, take your first step by educating yourself and finding out not only which cessation methods are available to you but how to cover the cost of treatment, often without laying out a cent.

Take it one step at a time. With support, patience, and dedication, you will kick the habit.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Smoking and Tobacco Use: Fast Facts." Atlanta, Georgia; updated November 16, 2017.

Chaiton, M.; Diemart, L.; Cohen, J. et al. "Estimating the number of quit attempts it takes to quit smoking successfully in a longitudinal cohort of smokers." BMJ Open. 2016: 6(6):e011045. DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-01104.

Jha, P.; MacClennan, M.; Chaloupka, F. et al. (2015) Cancer: Disease Control Priorities (Third Ed.) "Chapter 10: Global Hazards of Tobacco and the Benefits of Smoking Cessation and Tobacco Taxes." Washington, D.C.: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank.

World Health Organization. "Tobacco Fact Sheet." Geneva, Switzerland; updated May 2017.