50 years of tobacco control: Impact measured in lives saved

January 19, 2014 | by Nicole White

From warning labels to taxes to banning advertising, the U.S. has taken serious steps over the past 50 years to diminish the effects of tobacco on American health.

This month marks 50 years of tobacco control efforts, which have reaped rewards in lives saved. This month marks 50 years of tobacco control efforts, which have reaped rewards in lives saved.

The surgeon general took the first step 50 years ago this month, issuing a report based on 7,000 scientific articles and concluding that smoking causes lung cancer and other lung disease. Between the powerfully addictive nature of cigarettes and other tobacco products and the economic forces promoting them, the battle against smoking has been a challenging one that continues today. However, the success of anti-smoking campaigns can be measured in lives saved.

Researchers at Yale University recently reported that the anti-smoking efforts have avoided 8 million smoking-related deaths.

“Lung cancer, which accounts for more deaths than breast, colon, prostate and pancreatic cancers combined, has the largest impact on these statistics,” said Dan Raz, M.D., co-director of the Lung and Thoracic Oncology Program at City of Hope. “The reason for the decline in lung cancer deaths is unequivocally related to tobacco control. We have the opportunity to further reduce deaths from lung cancer with even tighter tobacco control measures, such as increasing cigarette taxes, which have been shown to lead to increased quit rates.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 45 million American adults still smoke, and more than 8 million are living with a serious illness caused by smoking. In addition, tobacco use results in the premature deaths of about 483,000 Americans each year. Despite decreasing rates of cancer, the American Cancer Society report predicts that lung and bronchus cancers will account for the largest number of cancer deaths in 2014, with an estimated 159,000 deaths from the disease.

Kicking the habit isn’t easy – even five decades after a firm connection between smoking and death.

City of Hope experts advise:

Get medical help. Smoking-cessation programs can give you specialized help from professionals committed to helping you quit.

Try medications. Nicotine replacement aids and other medications can help manage painful withdrawal.

Know that relapses will happen. Many ex-smokers tried multiple times before they quit for good. Forgive slip-ups, get back on track, and be patient and persistent with your goal.

Commit. Keep your appointments with your doctor. Don’t miss them because you started smoking again. That’s when help and support are needed most.

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