The impact of cigarette smoking on life expectancy between 1980 and 2010: a global perspective

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Abstract

Introduction

Tobacco smoking is among the leading causes of preventable mortality worldwide. We assessed the impact of smoking on life expectancy worldwide between 1980 and 2010.

Methods

We retrieved cause-specific mortality data from the WHO Mortality Database by sex, year and age for 63 countries with high or moderate quality data (1980–2010). Using the time of the peak of the smoking epidemic by country, relative risks from the three waves of the Cancer Prevention Study were applied to calculate the smoking impact ratio and population attributable fraction. Finally, we estimated the potential gain in life expectancy at age 40 if smoking-related deaths in middle age (40–79 years) were eliminated.

Results

Currently, tobacco smoking is related to approximately 20% of total adult mortality in the countries in this study (24% in men and 12% in women). If smoking-related deaths were eliminated, adult life expectancy would increase on average by 2.4 years in men (0.1 in Uzbekistan to 4.8 years in Hungary) and 1 year in women (0.1 in Kyrgyzstan to 2.9 years in the USA). The proportion of smoking-related mortality among men has declined in most countries, but has increased in the most populous country in the world, that is, China from 4.6% to 7.3%. Increases in the impact of tobacco on life expectancy were observed among women in high-income countries.

Conclusions

Recent trends indicate a substantial rise in the population-level impact of tobacco smoking on life expectancy in women and in middle-income countries. High-quality local data are needed in most low-income countries.

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