WASHINGTON: A new report by the United States (US) surgeon general significantly expanded the list of illnesses caused by smoking, calling for “increased and sustained action” to reduce tobacco use and save lives.
The new report, titled The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, came a half century after the historic 1964 surgeon general’s report, which made clear that smoking causes lung cancer. It declared that evidence has linked smoking to diseases of nearly all organs of the body.
Smoking causes colorectal and liver cancer and increases the failure rate of treatment for all cancers, said the report, which was formally released at a ceremony at the White House on Friday morning.
Smoking is also a cause of diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, erectile dysfunction, age-related macular degeneration. In can increase risk for tuberculosis disease and death, ectopic (tubal) pregnancy and impaired fertility, cleft lip and cleft palates in babies of women who smoke during early pregnancy.
In addition, secondhand smoke exposure is now known to cause strokes in nonsmokers.
“Smokers today have a greater risk of developing lung cancer than they did when the first Surgeon General’s report was released in 1964, even though they smoke fewer cigarettes,” Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak said in a statement.
“How cigarettes are made and the chemicals they contain have changed over the years, and some of those changes may be a factor in higher lung cancer risks.”
Twenty years ago, US male smokers were about twice as likely as female smokers to die early from smoking-related disease. The new report found that women are now dying at rates as high as men from many of these diseases, including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease. Specially, death from COPD is now greater in women than in men.
According to the report, smoking remains the leading preventable cause of premature disease and death in the United States.
Over the past 50 years, more than 20 million Americans have died from smoking, and cigarette smoking kills nearly half a million Americans a year, with an additional 16 million suffering from smoking-related conditions, the report said.
Smoking costs more than $289 billion a year in direct medical care and other economic costs, it said.
Unless current smoking rates drop, approximately 5.6 million American children alive today, or one out of every 13 children under age 18, will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases, the report said.
It said that although youth smoking rates declined by half between 1997 and 2011, each day another 3,200 children under age 18 smoke their first cigarette, and another 2,100 youth and young adults become daily smokers in the United States.
The report blamed this epidemic on “the aggressive strategies of the tobacco industry, which has deliberately misled the public on the risks of smoking cigarettes.”
“Today, we’re asking Americans to join a sustained effort to make the next generation a tobacco-free generation,” US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.
“We need to partner with the business community, local elected officials, schools and universities, the medical community, the faith community, and committed citizens in communities across the country to make the next generation tobacco free.”