Smoking is a cause of liver cancer and colorectal cancer, the fourth-most-diagnosed form of the disease in the United States, Acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak found in a report released Friday. In addition, he said, smoking is a cause of Type 2 diabetes mellitus, age-related macular degeneration, erectile dysfunction and rheumatoid arthritis. It can impair the immune system, worsen asthma and cause cleft lips and palates in fetuses. And exposure to secondhand smoke can cause strokes.
Smokers today have a much higher risk of developing lung cancers than did smokers in the 1960s, probably because of changes in the design and composition of cigarettes over time, according to the findings.
“The conclusions from these reports have evolved from a few causal associations in 1964 to a robust body of evidence documenting health consequences both from active smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke across a range of diseases and organ systems,” Lushniak wrote of the findings. “A half century after the release of the first report, we continue to add to the long list of diseases caused by tobacco use and exposure.”
There’s little doubt that the decades of public health efforts to educate Americans about the dangers of smoking, as well as a sustained push for tighter tobacco controls, have produced tangible results.
Cigarette smoking has continued to decline among adults, from 42 percent in 1965 to 18 percent in 2012. The United States now has more former smokers than current smokers.
All told, anti-smoking measures have spared an estimated 8 million lives in the country over the past 50 years and contributed to longer life expectancies, according to a study released last week by the Journal of the American Medical Association. A far-reaching law enacted in 2009 also gave the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products for the first time.