Smoking is an important and preventable cause of death and illness. However, as more money has been spent on smoking cessation programs, the incidence of cigarette smoking has risen. In 2002, 48 percent of men and 12 percent of women in the world were smokers (World Health Organization). Tobacco consumption increased from 1,100 million individuals during the early 1990s to 1,300 million by the year 2000 (United Nations Economic and Social Council). At this rate, the number of tobacco-related deaths is projected to reach more than 9 million by the year 2020. The number of tobacco-related deaths increased from 4.2 million to 4.9 million between 2000 and 2002, meaning that more than nine people die due to smoking-related illnesses every minute.

Research indicates that tobacco causes more than twenty categories of fatal and disabling diseases, including lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory diseases. However, tobacco is very addictive, and the majority of smokers have difficulty quitting even when they have a medical condition. For example, a 2000 study of 15,660 adults by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 38 percent of people with emphysema, 25 percent of people with asthma, 20 percent of people with hypertension and cardiovascular problems, and 19 percent of people with diabetes continue to smoke. Although smoking was responsible for their health conditions, they perceived that, since their health conditions already exist, quitting would not have an affect on their future health and well-being.

A recent area of concern related to tobacco use has been nonsmokers' exposure to second-hand smoke. Parental smoking has been proven to contribute to increased rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in addition to chronic illnesses in children such as asthma, bronchitis, colds, and pneumonia. Pregnant women who chew tobacco, smoke, or are exposed to second-hand smoke have a higher risk of miscarriage and of giving birth to low birth weight babies, who are prone to infection. Women who smoke are more likely to be victims of primary and secondary infertility, to have delays in conceiving, and to have an increased risk of early menopause and low bone density ("Current Issues and Forthcoming Events"). Most women are unaware of these dangers. Not only can the expectant mother place her unborn fetus in danger, but she can also place herself at risk for future smoking-related diseases and early mortality.

Quitting smoking at any age improves life expectancy. The 2002 Cancer Prevention Study examined the benefits of smoking cessation in 877,243 men and women in the United States. Life expectancy of smokers who quit before age thirty-five was extended by 8.5 years in men and by 7.7 years in women. The study found that smokers who quit at any age are subjected to meaningful life extensions (Taylor, et al.). In addition to a life free from smoking-related diseases, an individual who quits smoking can experience increased longevity.

Daphne C. Watkins


"Current Issues and Forthcoming Events" (2001). Journal of Advanced Nursing, 36(5).

Taylor, Donald H., Jr., et al. "Benefits of Smoking Cessation for Longevity." American Journal of Public Health 92(6).

World Health Organization (2002). World Health Report 2002—Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life. Geneva: Author.

Internet Resources

United Nations Economic and Social Council (2002). "Secretary General's Report to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on the activities of the United Nations Ad-Hoc Interagency Task Force on Tobacco Control." Available from <>