Prolonged cigarette smoking causes even more deaths from other diseases than from lung cancer. In developed countries, the absolute age-sex-specific lung cancer rates can be used to indicate the approximate proportions due to tobacco of deaths not only from lung cancer itself but also, indirectly, from vascular disease and from various other categories of disease. Even in the absence of direct information on smoking histories, therefore, national mortality from tobacco can be estimated approximately just from the disease mortality statistics that are available from all major developed countries for about 1985 (and for 1975 and so, by extrapolation, for 1995). The relation between the absolute excess of lung cancer and the proportional excess of other diseases can only be approximate, and so as not to overestimate the effects of tobacco it has been taken to be only half that suggested by a recent large prospective study of smoking and death among one million Americans. Application of such methods indicates that, in developed countries alone, annual deaths from smoking number about 0.9 million in 1965, 1.3 million in 1975, 1.7 million in 1985, and 2.1 million in 1995 (and hence about 21 million in the decade 1990-99: 5-6 million European Community, 5-6 million USA, 5 million former USSR, 3 million Eastern and other Europe, and 2 million elsewhere, [ie, Australia, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand]). More than half these deaths will be at 35-69 years of age: during the 1990s tobacco will in developed countries cause about 30% of all deaths at 35-69 (making it the largest single cause of premature death) plus about 14% of all at older ages. Those killed at older ages are on average already almost 80 years old, however, and might have died soon anyway, but those killed by tobacco at 35-69 lose an average of about 23 years of life. At present just under 20% of all deaths in developed countries are attributed to tobacco, but this percentage is still rising, suggesting that on current smoking patterns just over 20% of those now living in developed countries will eventually be killed by tobacco (ie, about a quarter of a billion, out of a current total population of just under one and a quarter billion).


Journal article



Publication Date





1268 - 1278


Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Cardiovascular Diseases, Data Interpretation, Statistical, Europe, Female, Humans, Life Expectancy, Lung Diseases, Male, Middle Aged, Neoplasms, Population Surveillance, Prospective Studies, Risk, Smoking, United States