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  • Public Health

    Smoking Continues to Kill Almost Half a Million Americans a Year

    2014 Surgeon General’s Report Highlights New Findings and Startling Figures

    Approximately 5.6 million American children alive today – or one out of every 13 children under age 18, will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases unless the current smoking rates drop, according to a new Surgeon General’s Report. In Colorado, 91,000 children alive today will die prematurely because of smoking. The report, The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress, calls the epidemic of cigarette smoking over the last century an enormous and avoidable public health tragedy. In just the last 50 years, 20 million Americans have died because of smoking. The new report updates estimates on the human and financial tolls of the cigarette smoking epidemic, finding that it kills close to half a million Americans a year and costs more than $289 billion a year in direct medical care and economic loss.

    The 2014 report comes 50 years after the historic first Surgeon General’s Report, which concluded that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer in men. Since that 1964 report, evidence has linked smoking to diseases of nearly all the body’s organs. The new report establishes more new links, finding that cigarette smoking causes diabetes, colorectal cancer and liver cancer.

    The report also explains that smokers today have a greater risk of developing lung cancer than they did in 1964, even though they smoke fewer cigarettes. Changes in the design and composition of cigarettes may have contributed to this increase in risk. At least 70 of the chemicals in cigarette smoke are known carcinogens.

    “This report contains an ominous warning for us all,” said Dr. Mark B. Johnson, MD, MPH, Jefferson County Public Health’s Executive Director. “Despite the great progress that has been made, smoking persists in taking a tragic toll on our country. Without swift and decisive changes across the nation, we will continue to feel the heartbreak and pay the catastrophic costs of this ongoing public health disaster.”

    In Jefferson County, smoking rates have decreased by about 7% in the last 10 years. However, in 2010 13.8% of adults were still smoking and today the tobacco companies continue to market novel products designed to attract youth like sweet flavored tobacco products and electronic devices.

    The 2014 Surgeon General Report builds upon earlier reports depicting the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke on our populations while also highlighting new health findings. The new findings include that smoking causes rheumatoid arthritis and immune system weakness, increased risk for tuberculosis disease and death from TB, ectopic pregnancy and impaired fertility, cleft lip and cleft palates in babies of women who smoke during early pregnancy, erectile dysfunction in men, age-related macular degeneration, and increases the failure rate of cancer treatment. The report also concludes that secondhand smoke exposure is now known to cause strokes in nonsmokers.

    The report finds that tobacco control efforts have averted at least 8 million early deaths since 1965 but that these evidence-based tobacco control interventions continue to be underutilized. Jefferson County Public Health works toward reducing the toll of tobacco in our communities through sustainable solutions to the problem of tobacco use and exposure. To learn more about current initiatives and how to get involved, please visit www.TobaccoFreeJeffco.com, email tobaccofree@jeffco.us, or call 303-275-7555.

    Nancy Braden
    Health Communications

    February 4, 2014

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    Last Updated: 2-4-2014