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How to Save Millions of Lives: 10 Essential Facts from the Tobacco Atlas

Tobacco Atlas Fifth Edition logoTobacco use kills more than 6 million people each year around the world. It will take a global effort to stamp out the profound harm that tobacco and the industry that sells its products inflicts on people and on the planet. That is the message of the just-released fifth edition of The Tobacco Atlas, produced by the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation. The Tobacco Atlas book and website also lay out concrete calls-to-action for the steps that global citizens can take to fight the tobacco epidemic.

It is well known that tobacco is the largest preventable cause of death in high-income countries like the United States, but The Tobacco Atlas also highlights the extensive damage that tobacco is causing globally. The Tobacco Atlas details these harms: to the person, to society, and to the environment.

Tobacco Atlas Cigarette Consumption Map


But The Tobacco Atlas also demonstrates that smokers want to quit and showcases the calls from advocates to push governments to invest in protecting their citizens from the harms of tobacco in the same way they would invest in any other public safety measure. The Tobacco Atlas offers insight and guidance to those looking to make their country a healthier place to live.

These are 10 essential facts from The Tobacco Atlas:

More than half: The number of long-term tobacco users who will be killed by tobacco-caused illness. Additionally, more than 20% of all cancer deaths worldwide are caused by tobacco use.

1.69 Billion: The number of pounds of cigarette butts that end up as litter each year, making them the most commonly discarded type of waste in the world.

24: The number of countries where more girls smoke than boys, which contrasts startlingly with the fact that more women smoke than men in only 2 countries, meaning that the number of adult women smokers is set to increase dramatically worldwide.

More than double: The increase in likelihood that a person will use tobacco if they suffer from a mental illness. This harms the health and well-being of these persons and should be of urgent concern to mental health professionals.

Never: The current date at which the world will reach the Millennium Development Goal of reducing tuberculosis if tobacco use continues as-is. This deviation from the original goal date of 2024 is entirely due to a global increase in tobacco use.

More than 50%: In most countries around the world, more than half of all smokers say they want to quit smoking.

$0.11: The amount needed per person per year to implement four of the most cost-effective tobacco control interventions in all low- and middle-income countries: tax increases, advertising bans, smoke-free areas, and package warning labels. This investment would save tens of millions of lives over the coming decades. The cost of intervention for each country is available at

14 out of 194: The United States is among the 14 World Health Organization member countries that have not signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first global public health treaty.

15%: The decline in smoking prevalence observed after Australia introduced plain/standardized packaging on cigarettes in 2012. This kind of packaging is considered the gold standard because it contains graphic health warnings and no branding.

600%: The increase in calls to Senegal’s National Quit Line after the World Lung Foundation’s “Sponge” anti-smoking mass media campaign aired in 2013.