Smoking Set to Become
World's Leading Killer
By Casey Combs
AP Writer

GENEVA (AFP) - Smoking is set to become the biggest single cause of death and disability on Earth, with tobacco use worldwide reaching epidemic proportions, according to a World Health Organization report published Tuesday.
Thinking of lighting up? Read on -- the following statistics and statements are drawn from the WHO report:
----Based on current patterns of consumption, more than 500 million people currently alive are likely to be killed by tobacco.
----Tobacco causes around 3.5 million deaths annually, the figure set to rise to around 10 million deaths annually during the 2020s or 2030s. Of the latter figure, 7 million deaths will occur in developing countries.
----By 2020, it is predicted that 12 percent of deaths globally will be caused by tobacco, more than HIV, tuberculosis, maternal mortality, road accidents, suicide and homicide combined.
----On average, smokers who begin smoking in adolescence and continue to smoke regularly have a 50 percent chance of dying from tobacco. Half of these will die in middle age, before age 70, losing around 22 years of normal life expectancy.
---- Based on current trends, around 250 million children currently alive will eventually be killed by tobacco.
----Tobacco is a known or probable cause of numerous diseases:
Cancer -- of the lip, oral cavity and pharynx; the esophagus; the pancreas; the larynx; the lung, trachea and bronchus; the urinary bladder; the kidney and other urinary organs;
Respiratory diseases -- tuberculosis, pneumonia and influenza, bronchitis and emphysema, asthma and chronic airway obstruction;
Cardiovascular diseases -- rheumatic heart disease; hypertension; pulmonary heart disease; cerebrovascular diseases; atherosclerosis; aortic aneurysm;
Pediatric diseases -- low birth weight; respiratory distress syndrome; newborn respiratory conditions; sudden infant death syndrome.
----WHO estimates that there are around 1.1 billion smokers in the world, around one third of the population aged 15 and over. Of these, 800 million are in developing countries.
----Data indicate that globally, 47 percent of men and 12 percent of women smoke.
----By the mid-2020s the transfer of smoking from rich to poor countries will be well advanced, with only 15 percent of the world's smokers living in rich countries.
The biggest increases in the smoking-related disease burden are expected in India and China. In China alone, where there are 300 million smokers, new data show that there are already around 750,000 deaths a year caused by smoking.
----Stopping smoking benefits health in all cases. One year after giving up smoking, the risk of coronary heart disease decreases by 50 percent, and within 15 years the risk of coronary heart disease is similar to that of a lifelong non-smoker.
The relative risk of developing lung cancer and strokes also decreases, though more slowly. Within 10 to 14 years of stopping smoking, the risk of death from cancer becomes comparable to that of a lifelong non-smoker.