It can be hard for modern Americans to understand the amount of influence and harm US society has suffered as a result of tobacco. It’s easy to see the disconnect, as it has been over five decades since more than ½ of the men and a 1/3 of the women in the US smoked. 50 years ago, smoking was everywhere, from hospitals to schools.
There is no doubt that the US has come a long way in combating the death and disease caused by tobacco. Smoking bans have swept the country, tobacco advertisement is limited, and the overall prevalence of smoking has fallen significantly. For all intents and purposes, it might appear as if the fight against tobacco has been won until we look at the devastating statistics.
- If you are concerned with health, it is important to note that tobacco is still the number one preventable cause of death. Approximately 18% of adults still smoke in the US, and there are 1 billion smokers worldwide.
- If you are concerned with saving lives, it is important to note that tobacco kills 480,000 people annually in the US; that’s more than murders, car accidents, and HIV/AIDS combined. 6 million die worldwide each year from tobacco related illnesses, and 100 million were killed in the 20th century alone.
- If you are concerned with our economic future, it is important to note that the tobacco burden on our economy is approximately $300 billion in indirect and direct costs; and
- If you are concerned with social responsibility, it is important to note that the tobacco industry has a vested financial interest in maintaining a high level of nicotine addiction.
The facts are staggering, but what the ASH “Avoidable Death” report demonstrates is that there are tools available to combat this ongoing epidemic. The Framework Convention Alliance on Tobacco Control (FCTC) recognizes the uniqueness of tobacco, the only consumer product that when used as intended kills.
There is a set of scientifically validated measures contained in the FCTC that represent the collective wisdom of decades of global efforts to reduce tobacco use. 650 million unborn lives can be saved.
There are places in the world right now that have utilized measures from the FCTC guidelines to strengthen their national tobacco control policies. Countries have recognized the importance of safeguarding their citizen’s health, and it is time for the US to intensify efforts to protect health by following suit.