A range of different research programmes estimate that an incredible two out of every three lifetime tobacco smokers will die from a smoking-related illness.

In its yearly report, The World Health Organisation (WHO), published the following key facts:

  • Tobacco kills up to half of its users.
  • Tobacco kills around 6 million people each year. More than 5 million of those deaths are the direct result of direct tobacco use while more than 600,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
  • Nearly 80% of the world's 1 billion smokers live in low and middle income countries.

In its report, the WHO highlighted that the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing around 6 million people a year. More than 5 million of those deaths are the results of direct tobacco use while more than 600,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

Nearly 80% of the more than 1 billion smokers worldwide live in low and middle income countries, where the burden of tobacco related illness and death is heaviest.

Second-hand smoke kills

Second-hand smoke fills restaurants, offices or other enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes etc. There are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer.

There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it may cause death. In pregnant women, it may cause low birth weight in the baby.

Almost half of all children regularly breathe in polluted air from tobacco smoke, in public places.

Second-hand smoke causes nearly a million premature deaths per year.

Reports show that children accounted for 28% of the deaths attributed to second-hand smoke.


Importantly, comprehensive national smoke-free laws protect over 1.3 billion or 18% of the world’s population.

In this respect, the Gibraltar Government introduced an important initiative in October 2012 with the prevention of passive smoking i.e. ‘Smoke Free Environment Act’. This legislation formed a significant milestone in the history of public health in Gibraltar. Not only was it significant in that passive smoking was at last officially acknowledged as a major health risk. This was welcomed by the general public, clearly manifesting that our society has moved with the times and is taking health matters very seriously.

Although quitting can be difficult, the health benefits of not smoking are immediate. Reports show that this reduces the risk of some cancers, heart disease, and stroke. A 35-year-old man who quits smoking will, on average, increase his life expectancy by 5 years.

Smoking Prevalence a Disturbing Local Trend

The last GHA Health and Lifestyle report highlighted that 29% of the population are current smokers. This statistic is similar to Spain, although it is much higher than England, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Wales and Jersey. In the youngest age group (16-24), Gibraltar has the highest smoking rate of all the countries studied. Younger men are significantly more likely to smoke than older men. People today are starting to smoke earlier than past generations.

Are There Effective Treatments for Tobacco Addiction?

Tobacco addiction is a chronic disease and it often requires multiple attempts to quit. Although some smokers are able to quit without help, many others need assistance. Both behavioural interventions (counselling) and medication can help smokers quit but the combination of medication with counselling is more effective.

Behavioural Treatments

Behavioural treatments employ a variety of methods to help smokers quit, ranging from self-help materials to counselling. These interventions teach people to recognize high-risk situations and develop coping strategies to deal with them.

The GHA organised what is an extremely popular ‘Stop Smoking Clinic’, an initiative that continues to provide a much-needed service to help smokers in Gibraltar quit their habit.

The World's nations have responded with coordinated action to reduce tobacco use and save lives. The world's first public health treaty, The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, took effect in February 2005. The treaty committed nations to implementing scientifically proven measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke.

Tobacco/nicotine dependence is considered a serious health problem. Those who quit smoking greatly reduce the risk of developing smoking-related diseases.

Smokers can quit smoking. There is substantial help available to achieve this. 

Remember…smoking has an enormous detrimental impact on various organs in the body leading to:

  • Heart disease.
  • Stroke.
  • Peripheral vascular disease.
  • Lung cancer.
  • Problems with the kidneys, pancreas, mouth, bladder, stomach, cervix and oesophagus.


Smoking is undisputedly one of the biggest legal killers when it comes to drug abuse.