Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in developed countries. This fact has long been known – despite this, many people smoke. How does that fit together? After all, millions of people have quit smoking in recent years. How has the percentage of smokers in the population developed in recent years?
121,000 people in Germany died in 2013 as a result of smoking. This means that 13.5 percent of all deaths were caused by smoking. The significantly higher number compared to previous calculations (Tabakatlas 2009: 107,000 tobacco-related deaths) is due to the fact that deaths from colon and liver cancer, type 2 diabetes, and tuberculosis as well as cardiovascular diseases were also taken into account for the first time.
Smoking is the main risk factor for lung cancer. Four out of five lung cancer deaths are due to smoking. Lung cancer has been the leading cause of cancer death in men since the 1960s. In women, on the other hand, mortality from lung cancer has only increased significantly in recent years, as smoking spread much later in women than in men. It is estimated that more and more women will die of lung cancer in the next few years, so that lung cancer will replace breast cancer in women and become the leading cause of death in them too.
Who smokes how much?
The number of smokers in Germany continues to decline – especially among young people. At the end of the 1990s, almost 30 percent of 12 to 17-year-olds smoked, today it is only around 10 percent. The proportion of smokers was and is the highest among young adults: of the 18 to 25 year olds, around one in two smoked at the end of the 1990s, today only almost one in three. Nevertheless, the proportion of smokers is highest among young adults: a third of 25 to 29 year olds smoked in 2015. A total of 12 percent of children and adolescents aged 11 to 17 smoke, with no differences between the sexes.
Around 31 percent of smokers only smoke occasionally, around 24 percent smoke up to 10 cigarettes a day; around 23 percent smoke 11 to 19 cigarettes a day and 21 percent smoke heavily, i.e. 20 cigarettes a day or more. Young people are even mostly occasional smokers, while older people tend to smoke heavily and regularly. In 2015, only 9 percent of 18 to 20-year-olds smoked 20 cigarettes a day, compared with 59 percent of women who smoke. For smokers over 40, a quarter of all smokers had at least 20 cigarettes. The proportion of daily smokers increases with age in both sexes. For men, the proportion of smokers with high consumption increases to a greater extent than for women.
In addition, the proportion of smokers is higher in the north than in southern Germany. Depending on the federal state, 27 to 35 percent of men and 17 to 24 percent of women smoke.
Smoking behavior also differs according to social status, which is measured on the basis of educational level, occupational position and income situation. For a few decades now, more men and women with low social status have been smoking than with high social status.
Smoking among adolescents:
The trend is towards e-inhalation products
The proportion of young smokers, which has been falling for years, has continued to decline and is currently only 10 percent. However, this decline is mainly due to the fact that young people in Germany hardly ever take up cigarettes.
However, the statistics only cover classic tobacco products such as cigarettes. The trend among young people between the ages of 12 and 17 is towards oriental water pipes, so-called shishas, and electronic inhalation products such as e-cigarettes and e-shishas. In 2016, nine percent of Germans over 16 tried e-cigarettes at least once or are current consumers. Above all, smokers, adolescents and young adults are interested in the products: 17 percent of 16 to 19 year olds and 14 percent of 20 to 29 year olds have already used e-cigarettes.
The aerosol of e-inhalation products, which the consumer inhales up to several hundred times a day, contains substances that are harmful to health. A recently published study by the American Academy of Sciences showed for the first time that e-cigarettes that were marketed as harmless to date can also cause cancer.