More evidence on the perils of smoking

smokingIt’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health.  In fact, it was 50 years ago that the U.S. surgeon general released the first report warning the American public about the dangers of smoking. Since then, thousands of studies and hundreds of systematic reviews have documented a long list of health problems related to smoking.

Last week, the U.S. government released yet more evidence about the negative consequences of smoking, including this indisputable statement: “The scientific evidence is incontrovertible: inhaling tobacco smoke, particularly from cigarettes, is deadly.”

The report details the evidence we now have on the health consequences of smoking, and examines historical and current data on smoking rates across the nation. It found that while smoking rates among adults and teens are less than half what they were in 1964, smokers today have a greater risk of developing lung cancer because of changes in the design and composition of cigarettes.

The report also found:

  • Smoking causes 87 percent of lung cancer deaths, 32 percent of heart disease deaths, and 79 percent of all cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • One out of three cancer deaths is caused by smoking.
  • Smoking causes harm to nearly all of the organs of the body.  It leads to a variety of chronic diseases including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, ectopic pregnancy and impaired fertility, erectile dysfunction, and age-related macular degeneration.  In addition, smoking leads to cleft lip and cleft palates in babies born to women who smoke during early stages of pregnancy.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes strokes in non-smokers.

The report also evaluated programs and campaigns designed to reduce the prevalence of smoking. It found that evidence-based interventions  – including media campaigns, tobacco taxes and smoking cessation programs in health care settings – are underused.

While the U.S. has made considerable progress on educating the public about the health consequences of smoking, there is clearly more we need to do. This report provides incredibly useful information because it details some evidence-based solutions that can help people stop smoking and prevent youth and adolescents from smoking at all.  If you’re a health professional or someone who works with young people, it’s certainly worth a read.

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