Global Tobacco Control Updates

Global cost of smoking was US$1.4 trillion in 2012
01 Feb 2017
Research Alert

A new study published in Tobacco Control found smoking was responsible for almost six percent of global spending on healthcare in 2012. The study used the Cost of Illness method to estimate the economic cost of diseases attributable to smoking. In this approach, economic costs are defined as either ‘direct costs’—or health care expenditures--such as hospitalization costs, equipment and medication, or as ‘indirect costs’ which represent productivity loss due to disease and death. The method uses information on health care expenditures attributable to smoking, which exists for 42 countries, to estimate a basic relationship between deaths attributable to smoking and the related health care costs. These estimates are then applied to a total of 152 countries for which the necessary data were available and which represent 97 percent of the world’s smokers.

Key Findings

  • In 2012, diseases caused by smoking accounted for 12 percent of all deaths (2.1 million deaths) among the working-age population aged 30-69.
    • More than 68 percent of all deaths attributable to smoking occurred in low- and middle- income countries.
  • The amount of healthcare expenditures due to diseases attributable to smoking in 2012 totaled $422 billion USD, or 5.7 percent of total global health expenditures.
    • This proportion was highest in high-income countries, the Americas, and Europe.
    • Within the European region, it was highest in Eastern Europe where smoking was responsible for as much as 10 percent of total health expenditures in the region. 
  • The total global economic cost of smoking (healthcare expenditures plus lost productivity) in 2012 was US$1.43 trillion. This is equal to 1.8 percent of the world’s annual gross domestic product (GDP).
  • Almost 40 percent of the total global economic cost of smoking in 2012 was borne by low- and middle-income countries.
    • Brazil, China, India and Russia accounted for 25 percent of the total global economic cost of smoking.

Key Messages

  • Smoking imposes a heavy economic burden globally. 
  • There is an urgent need for all countries to implement comprehensive tobacco control measures to reduce tobacco use and the economic costs of tobacco use.
  • The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control obligates Parties to implement evidence-based measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke, including tobacco taxation and price policies, which are most effective for reducing tobacco use and saving lives.


To access the study [English only], visit

Full Citation

Goodchild M, Nargis N, Tursan d’Espaignet E. Tobbaco Control Published Online First: November 18, 2016 doi:10.1136/ tobaccocontrol-2016- 053305

Additional Resources


cancer, world health organization