Global Tobacco Control Updates

Global Burden of Disease Study Finds Progress and Challenges
10 Apr 2017
Research Alert

In a new study published in The Lancet, researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle find that the rate of daily smoking for men and women at the global level has fallen since 1990 but that due to population growth, the number of smokers worldwide has increased. The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study estimates daily smoking rates, numbers of smokers, deaths attributable to smoking, and the burden of disease attributable to smoking by sex, age, and year for 195 countries and territories from 1990 through 2015. Researchers also examined results in terms of country level of development as measured by the socio-demographic index (SDI), which considers income, education, and fertility rates.

Key Findings:

  • The global rate of daily smoking decreased by 28 percent for men and by 34 percent for women between 1990 and 2015. 
    • Worldwide, 25 percent of men were daily smokers in 2015.
    • In 2015, 5 percent of women worldwide smoked daily.
  • There were 933 million daily smokers in the world in 2015.
  • In 2015, there were 6.4 million deaths as a result of smoking. This represents 11 percent of all deaths in 2015.
    • 52 percent of deaths occurred in four countries: China, India, USA and Russia. 
  • Male daily smoking rates peaked between 25 and 35 years of age in countries at all levels of development.
  • Female daily smoking rates typically peaked around age 25 for high and high-middle development countries but increased until age 60 for low to middle development countries.
  • The disease burden of smoking increased significantly in low and low-middle development countries. This increase was driven mainly by population growth, population aging, or a combination of both.

Key Messages:

  • Governments must act to prevent the spread of the tobacco epidemic and the devastating health consequences caused by smoking.
  • The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control obligates Parties to enact and implement proven measures to reduce tobacco use, and the MPOWER package of policies assists countries to fulfill this obligation.
  • All governments should adopt and implement policies mandating smoke-free public places with no exceptions, comprehensive advertising bans, large graphic warnings on tobacco products, and tobacco tax increases.

Full Citation: GBD 2015 Tobacco Collaborators. Smoking prevalence and attributable disease burden in 195 countries and territories, 1990–2015: a systematic analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. The Lancet. 2017. Published online April 5, 2017.

Full text [English only] available from:

A link to the GBD data [English only] is here:

The Lancet is one of the world's oldest and most respected general medical journals. For more than 180 years, it has served as an independent and authoritative voice in global medicine.

If you have questions about the study or how you may use it in your advocacy efforts, please contact


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