Fact sheets

Stop the untruths, WHO tells the tobacco industry

29 May 2007

  • Smoking and other forms of tobacco use are the second biggest cause of death in the world.
  • Smoking is the world’s single biggest preventable cause of death.
  • Tobacco claims 4.9 million lives a year, and if the present consumption patterns continue, the number of deaths will increase to 10 million by the year 2020. Some 70% of these will be in developing countries, which are the main target of the tobacco industry’s marketing ploys.
  • Second-hand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke or tobacco smoke pollution, contains thousands of identified chemicals, at least 250 of which are known to be carcinogenic or otherwise toxic.
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke kills. For example, a 2004 study found that as many women in China died from second-hand smoke exposure as they did from smoking. An estimated 48 400 women in China died from lung cancer and ischemic heart disease attributed to passive smoking, compared with 47 300 lung cancer and heart disease deaths from "active" smoking.
  • WHO recommends that governments require that all indoor areas—all businesses, all workplaces, all schools, hospitals, and so on—should be 100% smoke free, and individuals should insist that their homes are 100% smoke free.
  • The tobacco industry, directly and through front groups, continues its efforts to slow down the implementation of effective legislation to protect the public from second-hand tobacco smoke.
  • Ventilation systems do not protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke. In order to eliminate the toxins in second-hand tobacco smoke, so many air exchanges would be required that it would be impractical, uncomfortable and unaffordable.
  • Smoke-free environments do not result in lost business to restaurants, bars or hotels. Independent studies show that, on average, business remains at the same level or even increases after the introduction of smoking bans. Not a single independent and rigorous study has proved that smoking bans result in negative results for the economy.