Nicotine is a highly addictive ingredient in tobacco products. Over fifty years ago, the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was released. Based on review of an estimated 7,000 documents, the report concluded:
“Cigarette smoking is causally related to lung cancer in men; the magnitude of the effect of cigarette smoking outweighs all other factors; and the risk of developing lung cancer increases with the duration of smoking and number of cigarettes smoked per day, and diminishes by discontinuing smoking.”
Despite significant progress since the first report, smoking unfortunately remains the single largest cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.
More than 20 million Americans have died because of smoking since 1964. If current rates continue, 5.6 million Americans younger than 18 years of age who are alive today are projected to die prematurely from smoking-related disease.
Of the total deaths, 2.5 million have tragically been among nonsmokers who died from diseases caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. Breathing secondhand smoke can cause harmful effects on the cardiovascular system that can increase the risk for heart attack. It is estimated that tobacco causes nearly 34,000 heart disease related deaths and more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths annually among adult nonsmokers in the United States.
At least 70 of the chemicals in cigarette smoke are known carcinogens. Levels of some of these chemicals have increased as manufacturing processes have changed. In addition to causing multiple serious diseases, cigarette smoking diminishes overall health status, impairs immune function, and reduces quality of life.
The economic costs attributable to cigarette smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke continue to increase and now approach $300 billion annually, with direct medical costs of at least $130 billion and productivity losses of more than $150 billion a year. Society is paying for this expensive habit.
Evidence-based tobacco interventions that are effective continue to be underused. If you or someone close to you continues to smoke, consider quitting for a healthier life. Nicotine is an addictive drug from which the personal and public health risks are indisputable. Talk to your doctor for information on developing a personal plan for successful smoking cessation.