January 17, 2014–Fifty years ago, a landmark report from the U.S. Surgeon General described the deadly link between cigarette smoking and health. Today, a new report has been released, marking the anniversary and the progress that has been made.
Today we know that tobacco use is even more harmful than previously thought. Smokers inhale over 7,000 chemicals and at least 70 of them cause cancer. Likewise, secondhand smoke kills, too. An estimated 41,000 nonsmokers die every year just from inhaling secondhand smoke. New evidence also shows that smoking causes diabetes, too. Smokers are 30-40 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers.
If current rates continue, 5.6 million American children and youth who are alive today will die from early smoking. Moreover, use of new smoking products, such as e-cigarettes, has more than doubled among middle and high school students between 2011 and 2012 alone. (See CDC for more statistics.)
There is good news, too. Lower smoking rates have saved 8 million lives and added about three years to the average American’s life expectancy. And we know that proven tobacco control efforts are saving lives and improving communities.
But there is still work to do. Forty-two million Americans smoke and an estimated 3 million middle and high school students smoke, too. In Missouri, 23 percent of adults smoke. The state also has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation. This use translates into high medical bills, a sicker workforce and a burden on families, towns and economies.
Policies and cessation programs can help improve health and reduce health care costs. Smoking remains addictive and smokers themselves often want to quit. To get there, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit SmokeFree.gov. Let’s make the next generation smokefree.