A report published in the February 12, 2015 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine shares disturbing information on the impact of smoking in the U.S. In short, we’ve underestimated it.
While the U.S. Surgeon General has estimated that 480,000 Americans die of smoking-related causes each year, new research from the American Cancer Society suggests the total is closer to 540,000 – or approximately 13% higher than the Surgeon General’s original estimate.
A HealthDay report on the American Cancer Society’s research highlighted these findings from a study of nearly 1 million men and women over the age of 55:
- The death rate of those who smoked was three times higher than that of people who never smoked.
- Smoking was linked with small increases in risk of death from prostate cancer, breast cancer and other cancers.
- Smoking was associated with at least a doubling of risk of death from several causes, including kidney failure, intestinal diseases, hypertensive heart disease, infections and respiratory diseases other than COPD.
For healthcare organizations looking to maximize their influence on overall patient health, the American Cancer Society data elevates an important question: What are you doing to promote smoking cessation programs to patients?
As smoking continues to be more strongly correlated with other conditions, cessation programs should grow in priority for healthcare organizations. Successful strategies for driving patient participation have included targeted messages to patients that direct them to helpful online, phone-based and in person resources. These messages can include direct transfers to staff to have questions answered or include quick surveys to gauge patients’ current engagement level in quitting their tobacco habits.
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