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Alcohol and tobacco remain the biggest threat to health

Although use of illegal drugs has become widespread, what remains the biggest threat to human health are two of the most common drugs — alcohol and tobacco.

The Global Statistics on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Illicit Drug Use: 2017 Status Report found that the loss of human life due to smoking and drinking was 10 times more than is lost to illicit drug use.

The review of the study was published on Friday (11) in the journal Addiction.

“Smoking and alcohol are always well ahead [of illicit drugs], there’s nowhere that it even comes close,” Professor Robert West of University College London and one of the report’s authors told The Independent.

Eastern, Central and Western Europe had the highest alcohol consumption in 2015 with 11.98 litres, 11.61 litres, and 11.09 litres of pure alcohol consumed per person over 15 years old, each year. These regions also had the highest smoking rates.

Western sub-Saharan Africa had the lowest smoking rates while North Africa and the Middle East had the lowest per capita alcohol consumption, the report noted.

“We think of ourselves as bastions of civilisation, but on this particular area we’re doing worse than the developing world,” Professor West said.

“It’s a bit of a wake-up call, for me anyway, let’s stop congratulating ourselves that we’ve got smoking prevalence in Britain down to around 16 per cent – that’s only down to the global average.

“If we’re going to make the impact we really want on death rates, we need to address the cultural normality of it all.”