Smoking increases risk of dementia, according to World Health Organization

Published 9 July 2014

Smokers have a 45 per cent higher risk of developing all forms of dementia than non-smokers, according to a report published today (Wednesday 9 July).

The report, produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) also states that 14 per cent of Alzheimer's disease cases worldwide are estimated to be potentially attributable to smoking.

The report highlights that evidence shows:

  • The more a person smokes, the higher their risk of developing the condition.
  • Passive smoking may also increase a person's risk of dementia.

The report recognises that tobacco use is already recognised as the one risk factor common to four main groups of non-communicable diseases (NCDs): cancers; cardiovascular disease; chronic lung disease; and diabetes. ADI suggests that this information should influence countries to include brain health and dementia risk messaging into public health anti-smoking programmes and interventions.

See the full report on tobacco use and dementia

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer's Society comments:

'We have long since known there is a link between tobacco and dementia. This shocking estimate that so many cases of Alzheimer's may be linked to smoking surely means we must count the global burden of the condition alongside the millions of deaths we already know are caused by tobacco. With 44 million people worldwide living with dementia it is now time to rank the condition alongside others like cancer and heart disease when we talk about tackling smoking.

'With no cure yet for dementia, we need more research to gain a better understanding about how lifestyle factors can increase risk, and a significant public health effort to attempt to reduce the number of future cases of the condition.'

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