(HealthDay News) — Tobacco control is estimated to have prevented eight million premature deaths since 1964 in the United States; and the prevalence of global smoking has declined since 1980, according to two studies published in the Jan. 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a theme issue on tobacco control.

“January 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the first surgeon general’s report on smoking and health. This seminal document inspired efforts by governments, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to reduce the toll of cigarette smoking through reduced initiation and increased cessation,” wrote Theodore R. Holford, PhD, from the Yale University School of Public Health in New Haven, CT, and colleagues1.

To investigate the potential effect of tobacco control since 1964 on smoking-related mortality, the researchers evaluated data from National Health Interview Surveys1.

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The researchers found that an estimated 17.7 million deaths were related to smoking from 1964 to 2012 — an estimated 8.0 million fewer premature smoking-related deaths than would have occurred before 1964 and were therefore associated with tobacco control. This correlated with an estimated 157 million years of life saved, a mean of 19.6 years per beneficiary1.

In a second study, Marie Ng, PhD, from the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues used data from nationally representative sources that measured tobacco use to estimate the prevalence of daily smoking for 187 countries from 1980 to 20122.

Results revealed a decrease in the global modeled age-standardized prevalence of daily tobacco smoking from 1980 to 2012 (41.2% to 31.1% for men and 10.6% to 6.2% for women). The rate of decline was faster from 1996 to 2006 than for the subsequent period2.

Despite the decline in prevalence, the number of daily smokers increased from 721 to 967 million2.

“Since 1980, large reductions in the estimated prevalence of daily smoking were observed at the global level for both men and women, but because of population growth, the number of smokers increased significantly,” Ng and colleagues concluded. “As tobacco remains a threat to the health of the world’s population, intensified efforts to control its use are needed.”2


  1. Holford TR, Meza R, Warner KE, et al. Tobacco Control and the Reduction in Smoking-Related Premature Deaths in the United States, 1964-2012. JAMA. 2014;311(2):164-171.
  2. Ng M, Freeman MK, Fleming TD, et al. Smoking Prevalence and Cigarette Consumption in 187 Countries, 1980-2012. JAMA. 2014;311(2):183-192.