Tobacco (68) Q4. Do public health professionals and policymakers have adequate knowledge to prevent and treat tobacco addiction in their country? (4)

22 March, 2023

Chris Bostic (USA) made an important point a few weeks ago. "We need to update our facts. Nearly everyone in our field still says "smoking kills up to half of its long-term users," but more recent research shows that the key number is 2/3, not half."

Thanks to Sian Williams (UK) and Chris, I now have the reference on which this is based:

The paper concludes: 'In Australia, up to two-thirds of deaths in current smokers can be attributed to smoking.' The authors also noted that 'death rates in current smokers were around three-fold those of people who had never smoked, in both men and women... These findings are virtually identical to those on the contemporary risks of smoking from the UK and US. What can we say about other countries and globally?

Would it be true to say “Most smokers will die as a result of their habit”? If so, this would be a powerful message. If this can be embedded into the ‘global consciousness’ it could be a deterrent for young people to start smoking and a motivator for current smokers to quit.

The World Health Organization continues to say 'Tobacco kills up to half of its users'. Is this still a valid statement or does it need to be revised?

Best wishes, Neil

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: