Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death and disease. Cigarettes cause more deaths than cocaine, auto accidents, AIDS, alcohol, heroin, fire, suicide and homicide combined.
The costs to our society include over 400,000 lives lost every year in the U.S.-- over 1200 each day -- and $50 billion annually in lost productivity and increased health care costs. Worldwide, the toll exacted by tobacco use is two to three million deaths each year. Of the world's 1.2 billion smokers, the world health Organization estimates that 500 million of them will die because of smoking. This means that 9% of people now alive will die from cigarettes.
In most cases, the decision to smoke is not made by adults. Sixty percent of smokers start by the age of 14, and 90% of smokers are firmly addicted before reaching age 19. Stated another way, only one in ten smokers become addicted after the age of 19. So, almost no one starts smoking after age 19.
Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop alerted the nation that nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Yet tobacco companies have been spending over $4 billion annually on advertising, or $15 annually for every man, woman, and child in the country. Because of health problems associated with cigarette smoking, several nations have passed a ban on cigarette advertising. But in the US, the Congress legislated no significant change in this area in the past 30 years.