Health bodies have called for greater controls on smoking after a study revealed that it accounts for one-twentieth of the world's health costs. The deadly habit cost the world economy $1.4tn (£1.12tn, €1.31tn) in 2012, according to a new study published on Tuesday (31 January).
According to experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Cancer Society, the total spent on medical costs associated with smoking are equivalent to 2% of the world's GDP.
"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 journal Tobacco Control.
"These findings highlight the urgent need for countries to implement stronger tobacco control measures to address these costs."
The authors said the study is the first ever to include low and middle-income countries, providing a more accurate estimate of the tobacco epidemic's total cost worldwide. Most previous work has focused on rich nations.
In this study, the team used data from 152 countries representing 97% of the world's smokers in Africa, the Americas, the eastern Mediterranean, Europe, southeast Asia and the western Pacific.
Researchers did not include data on the health and economic impacts of second-hand smoke inhalation or smokeless forms of tobacco such as chewing. However, they did point out second-hand smoke kills roughly six million people a year.
"Their inclusion would thus have a measurable impact on our estimate of the economic cost of smoking," added the report.
The WHO says introducing greater taxes is the most efficient way of dealing with smoking.
"Only 33 countries, with 10% of the world's population, have introduced taxes on tobacco products so that more than 75% of the retail price is tax," the body said.
"Tobacco tax revenues are on average 269 times higher than spending on tobacco control, based on available data."