Press Releases

2003 Releases

Smoking Causes Nearly 5 Million Deaths Annually Worldwide

For immediate release:  September 12, 2003

 

Audio clip from researcher Majid Ezzati can be found below 
Boston, MA— Globally, nearly 5 million premature deaths were caused in 2000 as a result of cigarette smoking.  Comparing the number of deaths in developing and industrialized countries, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Queensland, Australia, found that the numbers were practically identical as poorer populations have taken up smoking over the past few decades. The findings appear in the September 13, 2003 issue of The Lancet.

The researchers found that more than 75 percent of all smoking-related deaths were among men, and this proportion increased to 84 percent in developing countries, where smoking has historically been more concentrated among men. The main causes of death attributable to smoking were cardiovascular disease (1.7 million deaths), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (just under one million) and lung cancer (approximately 850,000). 

While anti-smoking programs and policies are in place in industrialized and only some developing nations, an estimated 930 million of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers live in developing countries.

Majid Ezzati, lead author of the study and an assistant professor in the Department of Population and International Health at the Harvard School of Public Health said, “Our findings mark the beginning of an era when the majority of smoking-caused deaths occur in developing countries. Smoking-related deaths will rise substantially, especially in developing countries, unless effective intervention and policies to curb and reduce smoking among men and prevent increases among women are implemented. This should provide a motivation to strengthen the case to implement tobacco control programs and policies, which have generally lagged in developing countries, worldwide.”

Listen to Audio Clip -- Majid Ezzati, lead author of the study and an assistant professor in the Department of Population and International Health at the Harvard School of Public Health comments on the findings (54 sec)
WAV format  | MP3 format

The research was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.

For further information, please contact:

Robin Herman
Office of Communications
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617-432-4752
Email: rherman@hsph.harvard.edu