Surgeon General’s 2014 Report: Tobacco Deadlier Than Ever
20 million Americans dead from tobacco in last 50 years; 5.6 million U.S. youth will die prematurely as adults due to smoking unless policies proven to reduce tobacco use implemented by federal and state policymakers
Smoking is even more deadly today than it was 50 years ago, according to the 32nd Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health, which found that smoking now kills 480,000 Americans each year. The report, The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress, confirmed smoking is responsible for more than 87 percent of all lung cancer deaths and 61 percent of all lung disease deaths.
Furthermore, women are now as likely as men to get sick and die from smoking-caused diseases such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Since 1959, the additional risk of lung cancer among women smokers has jumped nearly tenfold. More women than men now die from COPD and the Surgeon General also suggests that women may be more susceptible to develop severe COPD at younger ages than men.
For the first time ever, the Surgeon General causally links smoking to increased risk for both contracting and dying from tuberculosis. The report also suggests that youth smoking may cause asthma.
“This report underscores the imperative to enact policies that prevent our youth from ever starting an addiction to tobacco,” said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “Tragically, women are now as likely as men to die from lung cancer and COPD. More must be done to help all smokers quit, to reduce all deadly tobacco caused diseases,” Wimmer added.
The human and economic burden of tobacco in the United States is overwhelming. Over the last 50 years, 20 million Americans died from tobacco. That includes 2.5 million people who died as the result of exposure to secondhand smoke, including 263,000 deaths from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke exposure. The Surgeon General’s report also underscores the tremendous economic burden caused by tobacco use – $289 billion to as much as $333 billion each year. Economic productivity losses exceed $151 billion annually and direct medical costs range from $132 billion to $175 billion annually. Lost productivity caused by exposure secondhand smoke is now assessed at $5.6 billion each year
Epidemic “Sustained by Aggressive Strategies of the Tobacco Industry”
One major conclusion from the report is that the tobacco epidemic is being “sustained by the aggressive strategies of the tobacco industry.” The report highlights the ongoing manipulation of cigarettes by the tobacco industry to cause youth and young adults to start smoking. For every adult who dies prematurely from a smoking-related cause, more than two youth or young adults become replacement smokers. And if smoking continues at current levels, 5.6 million US youth will die prematurely from a smoking-related illness.
“This is a startling and sobering call to action. The White House must empower the Food and Drug Administration to aggressively implement the Tobacco Control Act to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and cigars. FDA also must move forward with product standards that will reduce death and disease caused by smoking, such as prohibiting menthol cigarettes,” said Wimmer.
Bold Action Required
On January 8, the American Lung Association and our partners called for bold action by all levels of government to achieve three bold goals: reduce smoking rates, currently at about 18 percent, to less than 10 percent within 10 years; protect all Americans from secondhand smoke within five years; and ultimately eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco use.
"Nothing is more important to the American Lung Association than finishing the job we started 50 years ago when we stood with Surgeon General Luther Terry at the release of the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health,” said Wimmer. “The American Lung Association is calling on our nation’s leaders to end tobacco use, and free our nation from the terrible toll it takes on our health and future. But reducing tobacco use by 10 percent by 2024 will only occur if our leaders chart a new course and commit to making tobacco history.”
Action by Federal and State Policymakers Long Overdue
The Obama Administration must respond to this new report and take courageous steps to fight the tobacco epidemic. The American Lung Association is calling for:
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move forward with aggressively implementing the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, starting with the White House Office of Management and Budget releasing the proposed rules to regulate all tobacco products including e-cigarettes and cigars.
- The Obama Administration to make sure that all Americans have access to a comprehensive quit smoking benefit with no barriers as part of their health insurance. We know that not everyone quits the same way, which is why smokers need access to all seven FDA-approved medications and all three forms of counseling - individual counseling, group counseling and quitlines.
- Congress to significantly increase the federal tobacco tax and close tobacco tax loopholes so that all tobacco products are taxed at equivalent rates.
- FDA to remove menthol cigarettes from the marketplace. In July of 2013, FDA issued a report concluding that the consequences of menthol cigarettes to public health are greater than cigarettes without menthol as a characterizing flavor.
The American Lung Association and our partners have fought to pass policies to prevent kids from starting, help smokers quit and protect everyone from the dangers of secondhand smoke. To ensure the bold goals we have called for are met, the American Lung Association is calling for all states to:
- Fully fund comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation programs, including high- impact media campaigns, at levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Increase tobacco taxes and close tobacco tax loopholes so that all tobacco products are taxed at equivalent rates.
- Ensure all smokers have access to a comprehensive quit smoking benefit with no barriers as part of their health insurance.
- Pass comprehensive smokefree laws in states where they are not in place. At present, only 28 states and the District of Columbia have comprehensive smokefree air laws.
“Millions of lives have already been lost because not enough was done to enact the lifesaving policies we know work,” stated Wimmer. “Only a comprehensive approach that touches every community can counter this terrible scourge.”
On January 22, the American Lung Association will release its 12th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, which issues grades for the federal government and all 50 states on whether they are implementing policies we know save lives. Our 2014 report is both a call to action to end the tobacco epidemic and a benchmark against which progress from our political leaders in Washington and across the country can be measured.
About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lung.org.
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