Diseases Linked to Smoking Cost the World $422 Billion in Health-related Expenses

Written By:Elizabeth Mendes
a young man smokes and walks among a crowd on a China street


Smoking kills and costs – big time. The world spent about $422 billion on health care expenses attributable to smoking in 2012. The health care costs are only part of the picture. When health care expenses are combined with productivity losses due to illnesses, the total economic impact was $1.436 trillion in 2012. That equals about 1.8% of the world’s annual gross domestic product (GDP).

These figures are from a new analysis from researchers at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Cancer Society. The study included 152 countries, representing 97% of the world’s smokers. The authors note that this is the first peer-reviewed study to measure the economic impact of smoking-related diseases globally, including low- and middle-income countries. This is important because about 40% of the $1.436 trillion global cost of smoking occurred in low- and middle-income countries.  

The numbers of lives behind these costs include:

  • 2.1 million deaths caused by smoking
  • 13.6 million years lost due to disability among adults ages 30 to 69
  • 26.8 million years of lost labor due to smoking-related diseases
  • 18 million years of labor lost due to death

The study’s authors said the findings highlight the need for countries to implement more comprehensive tobacco control measures. “Nearly 2% of the world’s gross domestic product went up in smoke in one year,” said study co-author Nigar Nargis, PhD, director of economic and health policy research at the American Cancer Society. “We have to put a stop to the loss of life and productivity.” 

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