PARIS • Smoking cost the world economy more than US$1.4 trillion (S$2 trillion) in 2012, and sucked up a twentieth of healthcare spending, a study shows.
The killer habit consumed the equivalent of nearly 2 per cent of global economic output or gross domestic product (GDP), according to experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and American Cancer Society, with almost 40 per cent of the burden falling on developing countries. These included a US$422 billion price tag for treatment and hospitalisation, as well as indirect costs from labour lost to illness and death.
"Smoking imposes a heavy economic burden throughout the world, particularly in Europe and North America, where the tobacco epidemic is most advanced," said the study published in the Tobacco Control journal yesterday. "These findings highlight the urgent need for countries to implement stronger tobacco control measures."
The authors say the study is the first to include low- and middle-income countries in a more accurate estimate of the tobacco epidemic's total global cost.
The team used data from 152 countries representing 97 per cent of the world's smokers in Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, South- east Asia and the Western Pacific. It included United Nations and World Bank data on illness and death attributable to smoking, national employment rates and national GDP.
In 2012, it found that "diseases caused by smoking accounted for 12 per cent (2.1 million) of all deaths among working-age adults aged 30 to 69 - with the highest proportion in Europe and the Americas".
Almost 40 per cent of the global economic cost was borne by low- and middle-income countries - a quarter by Brazil, Russia, India and China alone.
The researchers said the real cost was likely much higher. They did not include data on the health and economic harm caused by second-hand smoke inhalation, or by smokeless forms of tobacco use, such as chewing.
Tobacco use is "one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced," according to WHO, which says taxes are the most cost-effective deterrent.
Yet "only 33 countries, with 10 per cent of the world's population, have introduced taxes on tobacco products so that more than 75 per cent of the retail price is tax", WHO said on its website.
"Tobacco tax revenues are on average 269 times higher than spending on tobacco control, based on available data."