Jan. 20, 2014. Approximately 5.6 million American children will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases unless the current smoking rates drop, according to a new Surgeon General’s Report. In North Carolina, that represents about 180,000 children alive today who ultimately will die prematurely because of smoking.
The report The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress, calls the epidemic of cigarette smoking over the last century an enormous and avoidable public health tragedy. In just the past 50 years, 20 million Americans have died because of smoking. The new report updates estimates on the human an financial tolls of the cigarette smoking epidemic, finding that it kills close to half a million Americans a year and costs more than $289 billion a year in direct medical care and economic loss. In North Caroline, smoking kills about 12,000 adults over 35 each year, and costs over $3.5 billion dollars in medical care and lost productivity.
Today’s report comes 50 years after the historic first Surgeon General’s Report, which concluded that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer in men. Since that 1964 report, evidence has linked smoking to diseases of nearly all the body’s organs. And today’s report establishes more new links, finding that cigarette smoking causes diabetes, colorectal cancer and liver cancer.
The report also explains that smokers today have a greater risk of developing lung cancer than they did in 1964, even though they smoke fewer cigarettes. Changes in the design and composition of cigarettes may have contributed to this increase in risk. At least 70 of the chemicals in cigarette smoke are known carcinogens.
In North Carolina, the latest data show that 1 out of 5 people smoke cigarettes, meaning over 2 million North Carolina citizens still smoke cigarettes. That ranks North Carolina 28th in the country for smoking rates. Middle school smoking rates have dropped from 9.3 percent to 4.2 percent and the high school smoking rates dropped from 27.3 percent in 2002 to 15.5 percent, which is currently below the national average among high school aged kids. These accomplishments should be celebrated, although there is still much work to do.
New findings in this report conclude that smoking causes rheumatoid arthritis and immune system weakness, increased risk for tuberculosis disease and death from TB, ectopic pregnancy and impaired fertility, cleft lip and cleft palates in babies of women who smoke during early pregnancy, erectile dysfunction in men, age-related macular degeneration, and increases the failure rate of cancer treatment. The report concludes that secondhand smoke exposure is now known to cause strokes in nonsmokers.
The report finds that tobacco control efforts have averted at least 8 million early deaths since 1965, but that these evidence-based tobacco control interventions continue to be underutilized.
Studies show about 70 percent of smokers want to quit. They can get free help by calling 1-800QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visiting smokefree.gov. To read the full report, The Health Consequences of Smoking, click here.