It has been 50 years since US Surgeon General Luther Terry issued his first report linking smoking to cancer and other life threatening diseases, including heart disease and stroke, encouraged a campaign to save American lives. And while the CDC reports that approximately 443,000 people still die from smoking related diseases each year, a new study led by Theordore Holford, PhD at Yale University estimates that Terry’s initiatives have helped save more than 8 million lives since then.
“Surgeon General Luther Terry’s landmark report on smoking and health in 1964 called unprecedented attention to the deadly consequences of tobacco use and represented a turning point in tobacco control in this country,” stated John R. Seffrin, PhD, CEO of the American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “Since then, public education campaigns and efforts to enact proven tobacco control policies have helped to reduce the smoking rate from 42% to 19%, and with it the nation’s most preventable cause of death.”
In the meantime, Holford also noted that while life expectancy for people over 40 has increased by about 5% in the past five decades thanks to government efforts to reduce smoking by increasing education about the health risks associated with it, banning smoking in public places, raising the age limit to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products, as well as imposing high taxes on them, 1 out of every 5 people in this country continues to puff away. This includes and estimated 13.2 million cigar smokers and 2.2 million pipe users.
Readers can learn more about the Yale Study by reading Holford’s report in today’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Society.