WHO Report: Smoking and Drinking Cause Millions of Deaths Worldwide

Almost six million people die from tobacco use and 2.5 million from harmful use of alcohol each year worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports.

The WHO report on non-communicable diseases—including diabetes, cancer and respiratory and heart diseases—says that a large percentage of these conditions could be prevented by reducing tobacco and alcohol use, eating a healthier diet and exercising more.

According to Reuters, the report explains that tobacco is expected to kill 7.5 million people worldwide by 2020, accounting for 10 percent of all deaths. Smoking causes an estimated 71 percent of lung cancers, 42 percent of chronic respiratory disease and almost 10 percent of cardiovascular disease, the report states.

Alcohol-related deaths account for 3.8 percent of all deaths worldwide, according to the report. More than half of these deaths occur from non-communicable diseases including cancer, heart disease and liver cirrhosis.

To reduce tobacco use, WHO recommends strategies including tobacco tax increases, distributing information about the health risks of smoking, restrictions on smoking in public places and workplaces, and comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

To reduce harmful alcohol use, WHO recommends a number of measures including increasing excise taxes on alcoholic beverages, regulating availability of alcoholic beverages (including minimum legal purchase age), restricting exposure to marketing of alcoholic beverages through marketing regulations or comprehensive advertising bans, and treatment of alcohol use disorders and brief interventions for hazardous and harmful drinking.