- R Peto
- Imperial Cancer Research Fund Cancer Studies Unit, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford OX2 6HE.
Smoking already kills about two million people a year in developed countries, half in middle age (35-69) and half in old age.1, 2 This number is still increasing as the death rate among women increases and populations grow larger and older (fig 1). Already smoking accounts for one sixth of the 11 million adult deaths each year in these populations. There are 1.2 billion people living in developed countries. If one sixth of their deaths continue to be caused by tobacco about 200 million of the adults and children now living in developed countries will eventually be killed by tobacco, and about 100 million of these will die while still in middle age.2
In developing countries there has recently been a large increase in the number of young men smoking. People in China, for example, now smoke about 30% of the world's cigarettes. This will have catastrophic effects next century as most other causes of death are likely to continue to decrease and the effects of tobacco to increase. If current smoking patterns persist - that is, if the smoking uptake rate among young adults continues to be substantial and the rate of stopping smoking at older ages continues to be low - by the time the children of today reach middle age smoking will be one of the largest …