86,000 U.S. Kids Face Mother's Day Without Moms Who Have Lost Their Lives to Tobacco

May. 11 2001

Washington, DC — On this Mother's Day, 86,000 kids in the U.S. will be without mothers who have lost their lives to tobacco, according to an analysis released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. This analysis was based on research conducted by University of California-Davis Professor of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine Bruce Leistikow.

This new data, based on Professor Leistikow's published research on the number of kids nationwide who have lost parents to smoking deaths and qualified for Social Security Survivors Insurance payments, shows that each year another 12,000 kids under 18 lose a mom to smoking-caused disease. Altogether the children of mothers who have died because of smoking-caused disease receive federal SSSI payments totaling approximately $580 million per year.

View Mothers' Day Smoking Data chart which summarizes Professor Leistikow's findings and provides statistics for each state.

This analysis follows a recent U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Women and Tobacco that documented the tobacco industry's decades long targeting of women and girls in its advertising and promotions, with devastating consequences for women's health. This report found women now account for 39 percent of all smoking-caused deaths each year in the U.S., a proportion that has more than doubled since 1965. The report concludes that the increased likelihood of lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and reproductive health problems among female smokers makes tobacco a serious women's health issue.

Lung cancer is now the leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Heart disease is the overall leading cause of death among women, and smoking accounts for one of every five deaths from heart disease. Women also suffer gender-specific risks from tobacco, including harm to their reproductive health and complications during pregnancy. Smoking rates among high school girls jumped by nearly 30 percent from 1991 to 1999 (from 27 to 34.9 percent).

Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign, called on Congress to do more to protect women and their families from the harm caused by tobacco.

"The study we are releasing today reminds us of the devastating toll that tobacco takes on our kids and families and shows that tobacco affects much more than those who smoke," Myers said. "One of the best things a Member of Congress can do to protect women's health is to sign on to legislation to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration effective authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. The FDA should have the authority to restrict the targeted marketing to girls, and to kids in general, that has caused so much harm to women's health and to our families."

The tobacco industry has targeted women and girls with its advertising and promotions dating back to the 1920s. This strategy intensified in the 1960s when Philip Morris launched the first woman-specific brand, Virginia Slims, with its seductive "You've Come a Long Way Baby" campaign. These campaigns cynically equated smoking with independence, sophistication and beauty and preyed on the unique social pressures that women and girls face. In the 1970s, women were targeted with advertising for so-called "low tar" and "light" brands, with implied claims of reduced risk that the tobacco companies knew to be false.

Despite their claims to the contrary, the tobacco companies have not changed. As the Surgeon General's report states, "Tragically, in the face of continually mounting evidence of the enormous consequences of smoking for women's health, the tobacco industry continues to heavily target women in its advertising and promotional campaigns and is now attempting to export the epidemic of smoking to women in areas of the world where the smoking prevalence among females has traditionally been low."

Bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate to give the FDA effective authority over tobacco. These bills would allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to restrict tobacco marketing to protect the public health, including those forms of marketing that have the greatest appeal to children, and would dramatically curtail illegal tobacco sales to children. It would also apply to tobacco the same basic public health standards that apply to other products. It would allow the FDA to require tobacco companies to reduce or eliminate harmful components found in tobacco products and smoke, require independent scientific testing of products and health claims, and prohibit or restrict health claims that are unsubstantiated or harm public health.

 

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