Tobacco is the single largest avoidable health risk in the EU, accounting for nearly 700 000 premature deaths each year. Around 50% of smokers die prematurely (on average 14 years earlier).
In addition, smokers have more life years in poor health. Many cancers, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases are linked to tobacco use, which causes more problems than alcohol, drugs, high blood pressure, excess weight or high cholesterol.
Smoking rates still high
Despite considerable progress, the number of smokers in the EU is still high – 28% of the population and even 29% of young Europeans aged 15-24.
Because tobacco is so addictive and 94% of smokers start smoking before they turn 25, policy should focus on preventing young people from starting smoking.
Other objectives are to help smokers to quit, and to protect people from exposure to second-hand smoke. The main activities are legislative measures and information campaigns.