Tobacco health topic

Shisha use is growing among young people

Image shows a young girl smoking shisha.The Region has the second highest rate in the world of girls’ use of tobacco products other than cigarettes. Many of today’s children are tomorrow’s victims of tobacco. Tobacco use, which generally starts during adolescence, is rising among young people. Addiction to nicotine ensures that many continue to use tobacco into adulthood.

Tobacco use among young people age 13–15 around the world is increasing. In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 14% of boys and 9% of girls currently use tobacco products other than cigarettes, including shisha and smokeless tobacco; making this the Region with the second highest rate in the world of girls’ use of tobacco products other than cigarettes.

Young people need to be empowered with information about the harmful effects of tobacco use, their right to live in a smoke-free environment and be provided with cessation services.

Implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control can protect young people against the harms of tobacco use. Article 16 specifically addresses the prohibition of the sale of tobacco products to legal minors.

  • Nearly 6 million people
    die every year from tobacco use
    and exposure to second-hand smoke
  • By 2030 70% of tobacco-related
    deaths will be in low and middle income

Frequently asked questions

Print PDF

Is tobacco deadly?

Every 6 seconds someone dies from tobacco.

Tobacco kills more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

Tobacco is single-handedly responsible for 30% of all cancer-related deaths.

Does tobacco use affect health?

Tobacco use can damage nearly every organ of the human body.

Tobacco use causes 15 different cancers.

Tobacco and tobacco smoke contain thousands of chemicals, many of which are well known to be toxic, carcinogenic, atherogenic, teratogenic and addictive.

More than 40 chemicals in tobacco smoke have been shown to cause cancer

Are tobacco products addictive?

Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are addictive.

Nicotine is the drug in tobacco that causes addiction.

The symptoms of tobacco dependence can develop rapidly and with minimum consumption.

Is second-hand smoke unsafe?

Some 600 000 non-smokers die every year from exposure to second-hand smoke.

Second-hand smoke exposure increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 25%–30% and the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers by 20%–30%.

There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.

Does the tobacco industry target young people?

The tobacco industry catches them young as they must hook new customers to replace those who die or quit.

Most people start smoking before the age of 18, and almost a quarter of these individuals begin using tobacco before the age of 10.

The younger children are when they first try smoking, the more likely they are to become regular tobacco users and the less likely they are to quit.

Related health topics

Burden of disease


Cardiovascular diseases

Education, Medical


Health education

Health promotion


Noncommunicable diseases

Public health surveillance

School health promotion


WHO tobacco-related pages

WHO Headquarters

WHO African Region

WHO European Region

WHO Region of the Americas

WHO South-East Asia Region

WHO Western Pacific Region