Fifty Years after First Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, Tobacco Advocacy Groups Pledge to 'End the Tobacco Epidemic for Good'
National tobacco control advocacy groups including the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Americans for Non Smokers Rights, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and the American Lung and Heart Associations observed the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health by calling for “bold actions” to “end the tobacco epidemic for good.”
The historic 1964 Surgeons General’s report, the first of many since then that have documented specific health dangers from tobacco, was the first major report to link smoking to lung cancer. It was also a critical first step toward reducing smoking rates from close to 50 percent in 1964 to about 18 percent today, according to the advocacy groups. Significantly, a study published yesterday in JAMA, shows that from 1964 to 2012, at least 8 million premature, smoking-related deaths were prevented, and each of those eight million people gained, on average, 20 years of life. Even more significant, the study authors estimate that reductions in smoking contributed 30 percent of the increase in U.S. life expectancy in from 1964 to 2012.
However, the groups quickly turned their attention to the 440,000 Americans who still die of tobacco-related illnesses each year and resolved collectively to achieve new tobacco control landmarks including:
- Reduce smoking rates to fewer than 10 percent within ten years
- Protect all Americans from secondhand smoke within five years
- Ultimately eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco smoke
At a question and answer period following the press conference additional proposed strategies were discussed by the groups’ top representatives, including:
- Expanded regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of all tobacco products—regulations on some products, such as menthol and electronic cigarettes, are still pending.
- Guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on a common smoking cessation benefit Americans can access through the health insurance they receive under the Affordable Care Act.
- Greater inroads on reducing smoking rates among people with mental illness. According to research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans with mental illnesses have a 70 percent greater likelihood of smoking than the general population.
- Greater efforts to reduce marketing and other tactics by tobacco companies in third world countries where smoking rates remain high.
“We can end the tobacco epidemic by fully and effectively implementing proven strategies,” said Tobacco-Free Kids president Matthew Myers, “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.”
- Read a NewPublicHealth interview with Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, on the Center’s goals for ending tobacco use in the United States.
- Read a NewPublicHealth interview on “tobacco end game strategies” with Professor Kenneth Warner, of the University of Michigan School of Public Health and a co-author of the new JAMA study on the lives saved through tobacco-control efforts.