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New Surgeon General’s Report Shows Cigarettes Are More Deadly Today than 50 Years Ago

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jan. 17 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – Fifty years after the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health, the new Surgeon General’s report released today shows that cigarette smoking is even more hazardous than previously thought. This report documents that smoking causes even more diseases, kills even more people and costs the nation even more in medical bills and other economic losses – by a wide margin – than has previously been reported. There are three clear conclusions to be drawn from this groundbreaking report:

While our nation has made remarkable progress in the past 50 years and cut smoking rates by more than half (from 42.4 percent in 1965 to 18.1 percent in 2012), tobacco use continues to have a uniquely devastating impact on the health of individual Americans and the nation as a whole. Each year, smoking kills 480,000Americans – causing about one out of every five deaths in the U.S. It costs the nation at least $289 billion in medical bills and lost productivity, which is nearly $100 billion more than previously reported. Without urgent action to reduce smoking, 5.6 million children under age 18 alive today will die prematurely from smoking-caused disease.
Shockingly, cigarettes are more deadly today than they were 50 years ago because of actions taken by the tobacco industry. The report concludes that smokers’ risk of death from all causes, compared to those who never smoked, has gone up significantly over the past 50 years. It also finds that “today’s cigarette smokers – both men and women – have a much higher risk of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than smokers in 1964, despite smoking fewer cigarettes” (Executive Summary, p. 1). The report points to changes in the design and composition of cigarettes as the only reasonable explanation for the increased risk of lung cancer.
All of the deaths, diseases and costs caused by tobacco use are entirely preventable by implementing proven strategies developed over the past 50 years. This report leaves no doubt that we know what to do to end the tobacco epidemic – significantly increase tobacco taxes, enact comprehensive smoke-free air laws in every state, conduct hard-hitting mass media campaigns, fully fund state tobacco prevention and cessation programs, provide tobacco users with access to treatments that can help them quit, and effectively implement the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory authority over tobacco products, including graphic warning labels. We know what to do, but have lacked the political will required to get the job done. It is time to fight the tobacco epidemic with a level of urgency and action that matches the enormous scope of the problem. We cannot afford another 50 years of death and disease caused by tobacco.

 Read the full statement at its original location>

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