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Health officials say smoking increases risk of dementia

Smokers have a 45 percent higher risk of developing dementia than non-smokers, according to information published earlier this month by the World Health Organization in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Disease International.

Evidence reviewed by the agency reveals a strong link between smoking and the risk of dementia, and the more a person smokes, the higher the risk.

It is estimated by the World Health Organization that 14 percent of Alzheimer’s disease cases worldwide are potentially attributable to smoking. 

The organization warns that exposure to second-hand smoke (passive smoking) may also increase the risk of dementia.

“Since there is currently no cure for dementia, public health interventions need to focus on prevention by changing modifiable risk factors like smoking,” says Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization.

“This research shows that a decrease in smoking now is likely to result in a substantial decrease in the burden of dementia in the years to come,” Saxena added.

Tobacco use is already recognized as the one risk factor common to four main groups of non-communicable diseases: cancers, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease and diabetes. 

“Tobacco is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing nearly six million people a year,” said Dr. Douglas Bettcher, Director of the Department for Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases at the World Health Organization.

Laurent Huber, Director of the Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control, added that it is no surprise to see these findings confirm that tobacco smoking is a major risk factor for dementia.

“This adds yet another item to the long list of the devastating consequences of tobacco and gives even more reason for personal and public health action to help people to quit smoking,” Huber said.

“The research also shows that quitting smoking later in life might be beneficial so encouraging and supporting current tobacco users to quit should be a priority,” says Serge Gauthier, chair of the ADI’s Medical Scientific Advisory Committee.

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