Anti-smoking measures have
saved roughly 8 million US lives since a landmark 1964 report linking smoking
and disease, a study estimates, yet the nation's top disease detective says
dozens of other countries do a better job on several efforts to cut tobacco
The study and comments were
published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This week's issue
commemorates the 50th anniversary of the US surgeon general report credited
with raising alarms about the dangers of smoking.
In one study, researchers
used national health surveys and death rates to calculate how many deaths might
have occurred since 1964 if Americans' smoking habits and related deaths had
continued at a pace in place before the report.
More than 42% of US adults
smoked in years preceding the report; that rate has dropped to about 18%.
toughest anti-smoking law
Increases in life expectancy
The researchers say their
calculation – 8 million deaths – equals lives saved thanks to anti-smoking
Their report also says
tobacco controls have contributed substantially to increases in US life
expectancy. For example, life expectancy for 40-year-olds has increased by more
than five years since 1964; tobacco control accounts for about 30% of that
gain, the report says.
The conclusions are just estimates,
not hard evidence, but lead author Theodore Holford, a biostatistics professor
at Yale University's school of public health, said the numbers "are pretty
Smoking still a problem
Yet smoking remains a
stubborn problem and heart disease, cancer, lung ailments and stroke – all
often linked with smoking – are top four leading causes of death in the US.
The US Centres for Disease
Control says about 443 000 Americans still die prematurely each year from
"Tobacco is, quite
simply, in a league of its own in terms of the sheer numbers and varieties of
ways it kills and maims people," Dr Thomas Frieden, the CDC's director,
wrote in a JAMA commentary.
Frieden said the United
States lags behind many other countries in adopting measures proven to reduce
tobacco use, including graphic health warning labels on cigarettes, high
tobacco taxes and widespread bans on tobacco advertising.
"Images of smoking in
movies, television and on the Internet remain common; and cigarettes continue
to be far too affordable in nearly all parts of the country," Frieden
Frieden cited data showing
32 countries have done better at raising tobacco taxes, and at least 30 have
adopted stronger cigarette warning labels. These include Australia, Brazil,
Canada and Uruguay, and research has suggested that gruesome labels can help
persuade smokers to quit.
Tobacco companies have
fought U.S. efforts to adopt similar labelling and an appeals court last year
blocked a Food and Drug Administration mandate for stronger labels.
Other studies in the journal
declined an average 25% among men in 187 countries from 1980-2012, and by 42%
among women. Because of population growth, the number of smokers worldwide has
increased and rates remain high in many countries. More than half of men smoke
in Russia, Indonesia and Armenia, and more than 1 in 4 women smoke in Chile,
France and Greece.
rates among US registered nurses dropped to 7% in 2010-11, from 11 percent in
2003, and remained low among doctors, at just below 2 percent. The rate was 25
percent among licensed practical nurses, who have less advanced education than
including nicotine patches, Chantix and Zyban, work better than dummy
treatments at helping smokers quit at least temporarily, but many often resume
after a year.
cigarettes may help some smokers quit but conclusive research is needed and
their long-term safety is unknown. Users inhale nicotine vapour from the
battery-operated devices – and they could lead to nicotine addiction among non-smokers,
according to a review article.
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