Surgeon General Issues New Report About Dangers of Cigarettes
It was fifty years ago when the Surgeon General issued the first report linking smoking to cancer. Now, the current Surgeon General, Dr. Boris Lushniak, has issued the 32nd report on tobacco use with a goal of completely ending the dangerous addiction to cigarettes.
In the first surgeon general’s report, Dr. Luther Terry claimed that smoking could cause lung cancer. This came as a public shock as around 42 percent of American adults were smokers in 1964. During the past fifty years, the CDC reports that tobacco was responsible for over 20 million premature deaths. However, there has been some progress. While 42 percent of adults were smoking in 1964, now only 18 percent are still lighting up. Within that segment of smokers, there are 45 million people with an estimated three million being minors.
Lushniak warned of cancer risks in the report, saying, “One out of three cancers is caused by tobacco.” Approximately 480,000 people die each year from smoking-related causes. He also noted that 87 percent of deaths from lung cancer were linked to smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. However, heart disease is the leading cause of smoking-related death in adults 35 years and older. The reports also notes that for the first time in history, women are now just as likely to die from smoking as men.
The latest Surgeon General’s Report also noted some new discoveries about the impact of tobacco use. Thirteen forms of cancer have now been linked to smoking, including cancer of the liver and colon. Stroke risks are especially high among those exposed to secondhand smoke with a 20 to 30 percent increase in stroke risk.
Another new development was the discovery that smoking can lead to diabetes, with a 30 to 40 percent increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The report also notes that smoking can lower immune function and cause rheumatoid arthritis, erectile dysfunction, macular degeneration, and even ectopic pregnancies. Smoking during pregnancy can increase the risk of newborns having cleft palates and the report claims that 5.6 million children will die prematurely from smoking related causes if society doesn’t do something to stop the cycle. This is a scary figure, representing 1 out of 13 kids dying too soon.
Lushniak insists that the tools to end tobacco use are already available. He mentions rising prices on cigarettes and anti-smoking media campaigns as two productive tools that are already being used to raise awareness. Most of all, the Surgeon General believes smoke-free laws are imperative nationwide. He said, “It’s embarrassing in this country only half our population is covered by those laws.”
He also insists that maintaining the FDA’s full power to regulate tobacco products is the best option. The CDC also made a recommendation to take $12 from each individual’s taxes and combine it with tobacco settlement funding to work to reduce smoking rates. Lushniak backed this plan saying, “Right now, only just over a buck-fifty is spent per person.” He also insisted we need more than federal regulations to win the battle against tobacco. He called on local organizations and nongovernment agencies to get involved.
Electronic cigarettes were briefly mentioned, but they were not endorsed as a safe alternative for smokers. Instead, the report calls for more studies to be dedicated to the public impact of using e-cigs. “Further research and attention to the consequences as well as regulatory measures will be necessary to fully address these questions,” said Lushniak. “The promotion of electronic cigarettes and other innovative tobacco products is much more likely to be beneficial in an environment where the appeal, accessibility, promotion, and use of cigarettes are being rapidly reduced.”
The report concluded with a solid message of hope for the future: “It is my sincere hope that 50 years from now we won’t need another (surgeon general’s) report on smoking and health, because tobacco-related disease and death will be a thing of the past,” he said.
Do you think tobacco-related death will still be a crisis issue in 50 years?