The most recent Surgeon General’s report on The Health Consequences of Smoking marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Surgeon General’s report linking smoking to disease. Since the publication of the first report, the incidence of smoking in the U.S. has dropped from 42% to 18%. The awareness and measures to curb tobacco use have saved nearly 8 million lives and contributed to longer life expectancy.
While these numbers are impressive, we still have a long way to go. In this year’s report, the Surgeon General made a dramatic challenge to create a tobacco-free generation in a generation.
Over the next 50 years, if we could help every smoker to quit smoking and keep young people from starting the results would be staggering.
- 500,000 premature deaths could be prevented every year.
- 5,600,000 children alive today who ultimately will die early because of smoking could live to a normal life expectancy.
- 16,000,000 Americans already have at least one disease from smoking. We could prevent that number from growing more.
- At least $130,000,000,000 in direct medical costs for adults could be saved every year.
- 1 in 3 cancer-related deaths in this country could be prevented.
- At least $156,000,000,000 in losses to our economy—caused when people get sick and die early from smoking—could be prevented.
Despite all our progress, there is more work to be done. Every day, 3,200 youth under 18 smoke their first cigarette, and another 2,100 youth and young adults who have been occasional smokers become daily smokers.
The report also notes ways we can break the cycle of sickness, disability and death caused by smoking, including:
- Extending proven programs and policies to more states and cities to make smoking less accessible, less affordable and less attractive.
- Making cigarettes less addictive and less appealing to youth by using federal regulatory authority and working to rapidly eliminate the use of cigarettes and other forms of burned products.
- Helping everyone who wants to quit by providing cessation resources that are readily available and affordable.
These steps can save millions of lives in the coming decades and eliminate smoking as the leading preventable cause of death and disease. The last one plays right into the mission of our blog: increasing patient engagement. How are you engaging your patients to educate them about the consequences of smoking? How are you making sure they’re aware of the resources available to them?
For more information on the Surgeon General’s report and what you can do to further the cause, take a look at the following guide to the report: Let’s Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free: Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health.