Tobacco kills up to half of all people who use it (i.e. shortens their lifespan), and has a global death toll of almost 6 million people per year (600,000 of whom are non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke). This figure is expected to rise to 10 million deaths per year by the middle of this century, growing most quickly in developing countries.
Across the developing world, tobacco use accounts for 9.92% of all deaths (and 4.9% of DALYs incurred), which is a greater proportion than all deaths from malaria (2.05%), from HIV (3.1%), from nutritional deficiencies (1.56%), or even from all physical injuries (9.5%). These deaths due to tobacco are largely made up of cancer deaths but also includes various other diseases for which tobacco use increases incidences or chance of death - among them, ischemic heart disease, stroke, hypertensive heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, lower respiratory infections, and tuberculosis. Interventions which reduce tobacco use hence have the potential to reduce the burden of a wide range of diseases.
Given the high mortality figures due to tobacco-related conditions, as well as the potential tractability and neglectedness, it is not surprising that tobacco control features on the WHO’s Best Buys list. The 2015 Disease Control Priorities 3rd Edition (DCP3), which details highly cost-effective intervention and treatment strategies for various diseases, also recommends tobacco control as one of the most cost-effective health interventions available.