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U.S. surgeon general calls for end of tobacco epidemic

(Reuters) – Fifty years after the first U.S. surgeon general’s report declared smoking a hazard to human health, the tally of smoking-related effects keeps rising, with liver and colorectal cancers, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and even erectile dysfunction joining the list, according to a report released on Friday.

The report, the first in more than a decade, found that smoking has killed more than 20 million Americans prematurely in the last half century, and warns that, if current trends continue, another 5.6 million children are at risk of dying prematurely.

Although adult smoking rates have fallen to the current 18 percent from 43 percent of Americans in 1965, each day, more than 3,200 youths under the age 18 try their first cigarette, the report found.

“Enough is enough,” acting Surgeon General Dr Boris Lushniak said in a telephone interview. “We need to eliminate the use of cigarettes and create a tobacco-free generation.”

Lushniak is calling on businesses, state and local governments, and society as a whole, to end smoking within a generation through hard-hitting media campaigns, smoke-free air policies, tobacco taxes, unhindered access to cessation treatment and more spending by state and local governments on tobacco control.

“It’s not just the federal lead on this anymore,” he said. “To get this done, we have to go to industry. We have to go to healthcare providers and remind them that this problem is not yet solved.”

The report, dubbed The Health Consequences of Smoking, 50 Years of Progress, details the growing science showing the diseases and health conditions caused by smoking since Dr Luther Terry issued the landmark report on January 11, 1964, that first confirmed smoking tobacco caused lung cancer.

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