Number of Smokers Worldwide Hits 1 Billion
Extinguished cigarettes are seen in an ashtray at the Shanghai Railway Station on Dec. 23, 2013. Reuters/Aly Song

The global anti-smoking campaign that began in 1964 has saved about 8 million lives in the U.S., even as the number of smokers reached 1 billion worldwide, with Bangladesh, Russia, Indonesia and China recording the highest increase in the number of cigarette consumers in recent years, a collection of reports released online on Tuesday showed.

According to a number of studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, the anti-smoking measures implemented in the U.S. following a 1964 report from then-Surgeon General Luther Terry that outlined the deadly consequences of tobacco consumption, has managed to save nearly 8 million of lives and a total of 157 million years of life. Terry’s report, which called for stringent measures to curb smoking habits among people, had sparked a massive campaign aided by tax increases, smoking restrictions and bans in public places among other measures.

The study led by Yale School of Public Health has found that about 17.6 million Americans have died since 1964 due to smoking-related causes, but the tobacco-control measures have helped to reduce significantly the number of Americans who smoke from 42 percent in 1964, to 18 percent in 2012.

And, despite the growth in population, number of smokers in the U.S. has come down to 38 million in 2012, from 52 million in 1980, the researchers said.

“More encouraging is the steady progress that was achieved over the past half-century, beginning with a modest 11 percent in the first decade to 48 percent of the estimate what we would have seen from 2004 to 2012 in the absence of tobacco control," Theodore R. Holford, the lead author of the study said.

"Today, a 40-year-old man can expect on average to live 7.8 years longer than he would have in 1964, and 30 percent of that improvement can be attributed to tobacco control. The gains for women have been slightly less, 5.4 years, but tobacco control accounts for 29 percent of that benefit," he added.

Global cigarette consumption, Number of Smokers Increase

The number of smokers worldwide increased in past five decades to 1 billion, while the number of cigarettes consumed globally rose to 6.25 trillion in 2012, from 5 trillion in 1980, a study from the University of Washington on tobacco consumption in 187 countries showed.

However, the researchers noted that global smoking prevalence, the number of smokers in proportion to the total population, has declined.

The number of people who light up surged in developing countries and low-and middle-income countries, while larger countries such as China, Russia and Indonesia have witnessed a sharp increase in the number of smokers, offsetting the progress made in countries such as the U.S., Canada, Iceland and Mexico, where smoking prevalence has decreased by nearly 50 percent.

Tobacco prevalence is highest in East Timor with 61 percent of the country’s population smoking every day, while the twin Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda have the lowest rate of smokers at 5 percent.

Greece, Ireland, Italy, Kuwait, the Philippines and Japan also have a high rate of smoking prevalence.

The study also upheld the success of tobacco control measures including high taxes and graphic campaigns in curbing the habit in several countries including Mexico and Uruguay.

"As the overall number of smokers worldwide is still rising, this study shows how important it is for all countries to implement a range of tobacco control measures to curb the terrible toll of tobacco-related illness and death,” Amanda Sandford of Action on Smoking and Health told the BBC.

"Low and middle-income countries in particular face an enormous challenge to fend off the powerful tobacco industry and stop smoking rates escalating."