What Kills More People: Sugar or Cigarettes?

You might find this a bit of a silly question, but a close look at the statistics will show you that the competition for what kills more people isn’t even close.

Which is Worse


Everybody knows that cigarettes are bad – but that wasn’t always the case. It took years before people actually understood that cigarettes caused damage to our bodies. Part of the reason for this is that humans are very good at picking out immediate dangers, but have a much more difficult time when dangers come slowly. After all, smoking one cigarette does no harm; in fact it makes you feel calmer, alert and gives you a boost of energy. The damage that happens from cigarettes is not that noticeable until you wake up one morning with a cough.

Cigarettes do cause harm, though, and they are linked not only to lung cancer, but also heart disease, stroke and a number of other diseases. If we use world-wide figures, the deaths from cigarettes amount to around 5 million deaths a year.

Now, let’s see how sugar stacks up.


Could sugar be the same as cigarettes? Could the damage done by sugar happen so slow that no one notices it? The answer to that question is yes.

While you won’t find medical doctors admitting that sugar causes harm, there is a growing number of research studies that are demonstrating that there is a connection between the amount of sugar we eat and obesity. How many world-wide deaths are attributable to obesity? The number is 17 million deaths a year. No one dies from being obese, though. Being overweight increases the risks for other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers. Sugar has also been shown to directly cause diabetes and heart disease, even in someone with normal weight.

What are the world-wide deaths from these conditions? Let’s add them up:

Obesity:                17 million deaths

Heart disease:  17 million deaths

Diabetes:                4 million deaths

Total:                     38 million deaths

Now, some of these figures overlap (some obesity deaths may also be due to heart disease or diabetes), so let’s conservatively cut that number in half and use a number of 15 million deaths every year from sugar-related causes. This means that sugar is most likely responsible for three times the number of deaths that cigarettes are, and, yet, we let our children eat the stuff every day.

Don’t be a Frog

Many of you know the science experiment where you try to place a frog in very hot water and it jumps out, but if you slowly heat the pot the frog is in, it will kill the frog because he never notices the increasing heat.

Sugar is like that, you don’t notice the damage it does because it happens slowly over time. So, don’t be a frog. Notice now that what you are eating every day has an impact on your health when you are older.My book, Sugarettes can show you how to break the cycle of sugar addiction.

About the Author

I'm Dr. Scott Olson ND. I'm a Naturopathic doctor who specializes in diet, health, nutrition, and alternative medicine. I've written numerous books and articles on health, medicine, and alternative medicine I want to help you get healthy! Take a look at my blog and make sure you join in the conversation!

7 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Joan March 4, 2014 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    Thank you for these informative articles Dr Scott, this is making my resolve to keep off sugar, stronger than ever, but it’s also quite frustrating because when I tell people, they look at me as if I have gone mad, and it makes me feel like shaking them to wake up to this danger. I also feel strongly that this is the catastrophe of the century and no one is listening or taking responsibility for the bad advise we have all listened too over the last 50 years, shocking

    • Dr. Scott March 4, 2014 at 1:32 pm - Reply


      Thank you for your comments! I do think people are beginning to see that sugar can be very harmful; some are just slower at accepting it.

      Best of luck with your continued good health!

      Dr. Scott

Leave A Response