The surgeon general released a report on Friday detailing new health consequences related to smoking to mark the 50th anniversary of its landmark report tying smoking to lung cancer.
Smoking causes 87 percent of lung cancer deaths in the U.S. It also causes colorectal and liver cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and immune system weakness, increased risk for tuberculosis, impaired fertility, can cause cleft palates in babies of women who smoke during pregnancy, erectile dysfunction and age-related macular degeneration, the report found.
Smoking rates in the U.S. have declined by about half since 1964. However, the report says that even though today’s smokers smoke fewer cigarettes, they are at higher risk of developing lung cancer because of changes in the design and composition of cigarettes.
The surgeon general proposed new “end game” strategies, such as hard-hitting media campaigns, tobacco excise taxes at sufficiently high rates to deter young smokers, and easy-to-access cessation treatment, aimed at the 42 million adult and 3 million young adult smokers in the U.S.
The American Cancer Society, Health and Human Services and other groups are lauding the report, and using it as a renewed call to action to curb tobacco use.
“This new report details how the unscrupulous, unrelenting efforts of the tobacco industry hooked generations of Americans on its deadly products, prematurely killing nearly 21 million people since 1964 — a death toll that continues to grow by 480,000 each year,” John R. Seffrin, the chief executive officer of the ACS, said in a statement. “Nearly 6 million U.S. children – our sons, daughters, nieces and nephews – will die prematurely from tobacco use. And, tobacco use costs the economy more than $289 billion every year in health care and lost productivity costs.”
“Today, we’re asking Americans to join a sustained effort to make the next generation a tobacco-free generation,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. “This is not something the federal government can do alone. We need to partner with the business community, local elected officials, schools and universities, the medical community, the faith community, and committed citizens in communities across the country to make the next generation tobacco free.”