sign up

“Enough Is Enough”

January 17, 2014

As the United States marks the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, the nation’s leading health officials today issued a clarion call to end the tobacco epidemic for good.

“Enough is enough,” acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak said at a White House ceremony where he released a new, 980-page report that documents both the remarkable progress we’ve made and the huge toll tobacco continues to take on the nation’s health.

“The clock is ticking,” Lushniak said. “We can’t wait another 50 years.”

The new Surgeon General’s report has some truly disturbing conclusions:

  • Cigarette smoking causes even more diseases than previously known, including colorectal and liver cancer, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. It kills even more Americans than previously estimated – 480,000 each year. And it costs far more in health care bills and lost productivity – at least $289 billion a year.
  • Cigarettes today are more deadly than they were 50 years ago. Today’s smokers have a much higher risk of developing lung cancer than smokers in 1964, despite smoking fewer cigarettes. The new report points to changes in the design and composition of cigarettes as the cause of the increased risk of lung cancer.

'As inconceivable as it is, tobacco is even worse than we knew,' said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'It appears cigarettes are getting more lethal. If you look at smokers over the years, even though they're smoking less, they're dying more.'

The good news in the report is that we have proven strategies that can accelerate declines in smoking and end the tobacco epidemic if fully applied. As we point out in a statement today, these solutions include higher tobacco taxes, comprehensive smoke-free laws, hard-hitting mass media campaigns, well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs and effective FDA regulation of tobacco products.

Our country’s challenge today is to apply these solutions with a level of urgency and action that matches the enormous scope of the tobacco problem. If we do so, we can achieve the three goals set by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and six other public health and medical groups last week:

  • Reduce smoking rates, currently at 18 percent, to less than percent within 10 years;
  • Protect all Americans from secondhand smoke within five years; and
  • Ultimately eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco use.

“Today, we’re asking Americans to join a sustained effort to make the next generation a tobacco-free generation,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Together, we can make tobacco history and end the epidemic for good. It must not take another 50 years.