Answers About Tobacco

Tobacco Facts

Tobacco & Health

  • There are more than 480,000 deaths each year in the US caused by cigarette use and exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • More than 16 million Americans suffer from a disease caused by smoking.
  • For each of the more than 1,200 people in this country who die due to smoking every day, at least two young people become regular smokers.
  • About 99% of all regular smokers started by the age of 26, with nearly 9 in 10 having started smoking before the age of 18.
  • If current rates don’t change, 1 in 13 children, or 5.6 million Americans younger than 18 alive today, will die early from smoking-related disease.
  • Average smokers lose more than 10 years of life because they smoke, but 90% of that loss is regained when smokers quit by age 40.
  • Tobacco use and secondhand smoke cause illnesses such as lung cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and respiratory problems. One of every three cancer deaths is caused by smoking.
  • Young adults and children who are exposed to secondhand smoke, such as those whose parents smoke, are more likely get sick more often with illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia. Chronic conditions such as asthma are more common as well.
  • More than 20 million Americans have been killed by smoking since 1965, and 2.5 million of those are nonsmokers killed by secondhand smoke exposure.
  • The economic costs of smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke are more than $289 billion annually, including at least $133 billion for direct medical care of adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity.
  • Data from 2006 indicates exposure to secondhand smoke costs about $5.6 billion annually in lost productivity.

Key Facts from A Report of the Surgeon General:  Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults (2012)

  • About three out of four high school smokers will smoke in adulthood.
  • Among those who persist in smoking, one third will die about 13 years earlier than their nonsmoking peers.
  • There are more than 7,000 chemicals and chemical compounds in cigarette smoke, many of which are toxic.
  • Tobacco companies spend nearly $1 million an hour on marketing, and even used cartoons to appeal to young kids. Today, they rely on flavoring, attractive packaging, easy sales (like vending machines and websites), social media and more to recruit young people as replacement smokers.
  • A 10% increase in price has been estimated to reduce overall cigarette consumption by 3–5%. Research on cigarette consumption suggests that both youth and young adults are two to three times more responsive to changes in price than adults.

Tobacco & the Environment

  • Of the more than 172 toxic substances tobacco smoke contains, 3 are regulated outdoor air pollutants, 33 are hazardous air pollutants, 47 are chemicals restricted as hazardous waste and 67 are known human or animal carcinogens.
  • Worldwide, approximately 20-50 million trees are cut down each year for land to cure tobacco. 10 Deforestation leads to approximately 30% of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year, not only increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, but inhibiting water recycling, triggering severe flooding, aquifer depletion, soil degradation and plant and animal extinction.
  • Tobacco production is responsible for 27 million pounds of pesticides being used just in the U.S.5 Many of these pesticides are known to harm small animals and cause soil depletion, while a few, like methyl bromide, cause ozone depletion.
  • Tobacco field workers are exposed to the chemicals in and protecting tobacco plants, leading to a myriad of problems including acute poisoning, cancer, nervous system damage and birth defects. “Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS),” caused by the absorption of nicotine from wet tobacco leaves, is found in as many as 41% of migrant workers at least once during harvest season.
  • The tobacco industry in the United States was responsible for generation about 16 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, or approximately matching what more than 3.5 million cars would generate.
  • Assuming each empty pack of cigarettes weighs about five grams, cigarettes are responsible for about 100 billion pounds of packing waste across the planet.
  • Cigarettes are not biodegradable; researchers have found that one used cigarette butt placed into a liter of water will kill half of all exposed freshwater fish or marine fish.

Other Facts

  • Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the country. Smoking kills more Americans than alcohol, car crashes, AIDS-related causes, fires, heroin, cocaine, homicide and suicide combined.
  • The tobacco industry has historically targeted disadvantaged communities – youth, low-income people, people of color and LGBT people. It’s no surprise then that these populations are more likely to suffer from tobacco-related diseases.
  • Many states and localities have passed laws protecting employees and community members from hazardous secondhand smoke where they live and work.
  • Numerous studies demonstrate that employees who smoke tobacco have higher levels of absenteeism and healthcare costs in comparison to employees that don’t smoke. It’s estimated that it costs an extra $5,816 annually to employ a smoker.
  • Tobacco-free policies reduce the costs for grounds and building maintenance, which is borne by the tobacco companies or their consumers, but rather by the institutions and communities they inhabit. One study found 77% fewer cigarette butts on college campuses with 100% smoke-free campus-wide policies.
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