Jan. 7 2014
WASHINGTON, DC – As the United States marks the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health, a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) powerfully illustrates how much our nation’s health has benefited from reductions in smoking over the past 50 years – and how far we still have to go to end the epidemic of death and disease caused by tobacco.
The study shows that the health gains from reducing smoking have been truly astonishing:
From 1964-2012, at least 8 million premature, smoking-related deaths were prevented.
Each of these 8 million individuals gained, on average, 20 years of life, for a total of 157 million years of life saved.
Most remarkably, the researchers estimated that reductions in smoking contributed fully 30 percent of the increase in life expectancy in the U.S. from 1964 to 2012.
Despite this progress, the study is also a sobering reminder of the huge toll smoking continues to have on our nation. It finds that from 1964-2012, at least 17.6 million deaths were attributable to smoking. Today, tobacco use is still the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing more than 440,000 Americans each year and costing the nation nearly $200 billion annually in health care expenditures and lost productivity.
This study leaves no doubt about the importance of the fight against tobacco to the overall health of our nation. It shows why, on this 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report, it is time for a new national commitment to end the tobacco epidemic for good. Tomorrow, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and six other public health and medical organizations will hold a press conference to announce bold new goals for reducing tobacco use and challenge the nation to achieve them within a decade.
The press conference will be held at 10 am at the National Press Club, Zenger Room, 529 14th Street NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC. Kenneth E. Warner, Distinguished University Professor of Public Health, University of Michigan, and a co-author of the new JAMA study, will speak at the press conference.
We can end the tobacco epidemic by fully and effectively implementing proven strategies, including higher tobacco taxes, comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws, hard-hitting mass media campaigns, well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and effective Food and Drug Administration regulation of the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. By doing what we know works, we can accelerate declines in tobacco use and ultimately eliminate the death and disease it causes. We cannot afford to wait another 50 years.