Sep. 15 2011
WASHINGTON, DC (September 15, 2011) – A new report published today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides powerful and concrete evidence that the nation’s battle against tobacco use has not only driven down smoking rates, but is also saving lives by reducing lung cancer, the number one cancer killer in the United States. It also sends a clear message to our elected officials: If you care about protecting your constituents from lung cancer, you must take action to reduce smoking.
Looking at trends in lung cancer incidence and smoking from 1999 to 2008, the report finds that the lung cancer rate continues to fall among men and is beginning to decline among women, who started smoking at high rates later than men. The report also finds that lung cancer rates are lower and declining faster in states with low smoking rates and high rates of smokers who have quit, especially in California and other Western states. Lung cancer rates are highest in Southern and Midwestern states with the highest rates of smoking.
It is good news for the nation's health that we are making progress against lung cancer, most of which is caused by smoking. But it is troubling that the United States has become a nation of haves and have-nots when it comes to reducing smoking and lung cancer. Many Americans have a greater risk of lung cancer because of where they live and because their elected leaders have failed to implement proven measures to reduce tobacco use.
The most successful states have implemented a comprehensive, scientifically proven strategy that includes higher tobacco taxes, smoke-free workplace laws and well-funded programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. California, the first state to implement such a strategy, reduced lung and bronchus cancer rates nearly four times faster than the rest of the U.S. between 1988 and 2004. California's adult smoking rate in 2010 was 11.9 percent, compared to 19.3 percent for the nation as a whole. It is telling that the ten states with the lowest smoking rates all have strong smoke-free laws that cover restaurants and bars and have an average tobacco tax that is almost three times as high as the ten states with the highest smoking rates.
Every state can do as well as California — and even better — in reducing smoking and lung cancer. The states must step up their efforts to increase tobacco taxes, enact smoke-free laws and fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. It is especially critical that states reverse budget cuts that have decimated tobacco prevention and cessation programs in recent years, cutting total funding by more than a third.
The federal government must also provide critical leadership. The FDA must effectively exercise its new authority to regulate tobacco products and marketing, especially as tobacco companies challenge and seek to undermine key provisions such as the new graphic cigarette pack warnings. In addition, the Administration and Congress should fund and implement the national Tobacco Control Strategy Action Plan announced last year by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, including a national media campaign to prevent kids from smoking and encourage smokers to quit.
There is no question that we know how to win the fight against tobacco use and lung cancer. However, as the CDC report concludes, "Although great strides in tobacco control and lung cancer incidence reduction have been made, further progress requires intensified efforts to reduce cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke exposure." We couldn't agree more.
The report, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, can be found at www.cdc.gov/mmwr.