New CDC Study Finds 8.6 Million People in U.S. Suffer from Smoking-Caused Diseases

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Sep. 4 2003

Washington, D.C. — A new study released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that at least 8.6 million people in the United States currently suffer from serious illnesses attributable to smoking. For each of the approximately 440,000 persons in the U.S. who die each year of a smoking-attributable illness, another 20 people suffer from at least one serious smoking-caused illness, according to the CDC. We have long known that tobacco use is the nation's leading preventable cause of death. Today's study provides the first national estimate of the number of persons who live with serious chronic illnesses caused by smoking, and it shows that the toll of tobacco is even more devastating than previously thought.

The new CDC study underscores both the broad scope of harm caused by tobacco use and the need for elected officials at all levels to pass policies and devote resources that can reduce tobacco's terrible toll. What is especially unfortunate is that we know how to reduce tobacco use and its many harms through effective tobacco prevention, cessation and regulation, but too few elected officials have had the political will to enact such policies. Today's study shows the high price that millions of individuals and the entire nation are paying as a result.

Today's study is a valuable reminder of what is at stake as Congress considers legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products. It shows why it is so important that Congress grant the FDA real authority over tobacco products as supported by the public health community and not ineffective, loophole-filled authority as sought by Philip Morris, the nation's largest tobacco company. Real FDA authority would help to reduce the tobacco-caused disease and death identified in today's study, while ineffective FDA authority would give the illusion of change and result in more addiction, disease and death.

Other measures proven to reduce tobacco use include increased insurance coverage for smoking cessation therapies to help smokers quit, tobacco tax increases, comprehensive, well-funded tobacco prevention programs, and smoke-free workplace policies that provide protection from secondhand smoke. These are cost-effective, life-saving policies proven to save far more than they cost by reducing the $75 billion in health care bills that tobacco use costs the nation every year. While a growing number of states and communities in recent years have increased cigarette taxes and enacted smoke-free policies, too many states have cut or eliminated funding for tobacco prevention programs despite conclusive evidence these programs work to reduce smoking among both youth and adults. We need a comprehensive approach including prevention, cessation and regulation to truly succeed in reducing the toll of tobacco.

(The new CDC study, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5235a4.htm. The study was conducted by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Research Triangle Institute and CDC.

The new study also reiterated the CDC's previous findings that approximately 440,000 persons die in the U.S. each year of a cigarette smoking-attributable illness, resulting in 5.6 million years of potential life lost, $75 billion in direct medical costs and $82 billion in lost productivity. At the request of U.S. Rep. Richard Burr (R-NC), the General Accounting Office recently reviewed these CDC estimates and concluded that they were "reasonable." We have placed the GAO's July 16, 2003, report on our web site at http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/pressoffice/gao.pdf. We hope you will find this report to be a useful reference should you encounter any challenges to CDC's estimates of tobacco's toll on our nation's health.)

 

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