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Estimates are made of the numbers and proportions of deaths attributable to smoking in 44 developed countries in 1990. In developed countries as a whole, tobacco was responsible for 24% of all male deaths and 7% of all female deaths, rising to over 40% in men in some former socialist economies and 17% in women in the USA. The average loss of life for all cigarette smokers was about 8 years and for those whose deaths were attributable to tobacco about 16 years. Trends in mortality attributable to tobacco differed between countries. In some the mortality in middle age (35-69 years) had decreased by half in men since 1965; in others it was continuing to increase. In women, the proportion was mostly increasing, almost universally in old age. Mortality not attributable to smoking decreased since 1955 in all OECD (Organization for European Collaboration and Development) countries, by up to 60% in men and more in women. No precise estimate can be made of the number of deaths attributable to smoking in undeveloped countries, but the prevalence of smoking suggests that it will be large. In the world as a whole, some 3 million deaths a year are estimated to be attributable to smoking, rising to 10 million a year in 30-40 years' time.

Original publication




Journal article


Br Med Bull

Publication Date





12 - 21


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Developed Countries, Female, Humans, Life Expectancy, Lung Neoplasms, Male, Middle Aged, Sex Factors, Smoking