Story at a glance

  • It is the first report in three decades to focus on smoking cessation.
  • The report found 40 percent of smokers are not told by their physicians to stop smoking.
  • No evidence that e-cigarettes helped people quit tobacco was found.

The U.S. surgeon general says doctors are not advising enough smokers to kick the habit, despite tobacco being the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the nation. 

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said in a press conference Thursday that about two-fifths of smokers are not routinely told by their doctors to stop smoking. 

“Forty percent of smokers who see a health provider each year aren’t advised by those health providers to quit,” Adams said. 

As interventions like counseling and medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help people quit tobacco, Adams said “two-thirds of smokers who try to quit don’t use FDA-approved medications and counseling.”

“Behavior counseling and FDA-approved medications, according to the science compiled in this report, actually double the chance that someone can successfully quit when used in concert,” Adams said.

The report says most people who smoke, about 70 percent, indeed do want to quit, and more than half try to stop each year. 

The 700-page 2020 Surgeon General report on tobacco was released Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services, and is the first in three decades to focus primarily on quitting tobacco. Cigarette smoking has been falling in the U.S., hitting a low of about 14 percent in 2018. 

The report also noted that there is inadequate evidence to conclude the use of e-cigarettes helps smokers quit. E-cigarettes are often promoted as a way for smokers to stop using traditional cigarettes. The surgeon general urged people to focus on what research has shown about e-cigs so far, for example, 1 in 4 people actually start using tobacco products because of e-cigarette use.

The report also found that more than 3 out of 5 U.S. adults who have ever smoked cigarettes have quit. It claims raising the price of cigarettes, adopting smoke-free policies and maintaining nationwide tobacco control programs helped smoking cessation.

Published on Jan 23, 2020