Background: Smoking is a risk factor for several diseases and has been increasing in many developing countries. Our aim was to estimate global and regional mortality in 2000 caused by smoking, including an analysis of uncertainty.
Methods: Following the methods of Peto and colleagues, we used lung-cancer mortality as an indirect marker for accumulated smoking risk. Never-smoker lung-cancer mortality was estimated based on the household use of coal with poor ventilation. Relative risks were taken from the American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Study, phase II, and the retrospective proportional mortality analysis of Liu and colleagues in China. Relative risks were corrected for confounding and extrapolation to other regions.
Results: We estimated that in 2000, 4.83 (uncertainty range 3.94-5.93) million premature deaths in the world were attributable to smoking; 2.41 (1.80-3.15) million in developing countries and 2.43 (2.13-2.78) million in industrialised countries. 3.84 million of these deaths were in men. The leading causes of death from smoking were cardiovascular diseases (1.69 million deaths), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (0.97 million deaths), and lung cancer (0.85 million deaths).
Interpretation: Smoking was an important cause of global mortality in 2000. In view of the expected demographic and epidemiological transitions and current smoking patterns in the developing world, the health loss due to smoking will grow even larger unless effective interventions and policies that reduce smoking among men and prevent increases among women in developing countries are implemented.