The number of smokers in the U.S. has dropped dramatically from the number in 1965. In that year, 42 percent of American adults smoked. In 2012, the number was down to 18 percent. That is the good news. The rest of the news is bad.
Fifty years ago the U.S. surgeon general reported on the dangers of smoking. It causes lung and laryngeal cancers as well as bronchitis. Campaigns to ban smoking in many places are successful. Educating smokers on the risks is also ongoing.
What are the new problems? First, more smokers are dying from smoking. About 480,000 Americans annually are dying from smoke-related illnesses, up from older estimates of 443,000 deaths annually.
The reason is that cigarettes are more toxic than they were years ago. The quality of the tobacco is stronger. Filtered cigarettes are more dangerous. Smokers cover the filters with their hands when they smoke. They draw more deeply on the cigarettes to get the full enjoyment.
Science is finding new bad health outcomes from smoking. Lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and asthma are well-known dangers. A new report adds liver cancer, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis to the list. Also, links to diabetes and erectile dysfunction are included.
Women are as likely to die from smoking-related diseases as men. For the first time, secondhand smoke was cited as a cause of stroke.
The tobacco companies are not commenting. Experts say more has to be done to focus public attention on the dangers of smoking.
Of course, every time death from any cause goes down, deaths from other causes go up. People will die of something. But it is clearly better to die of old age than to die from lung cancer.
Source: The Wall Street Journal January 17, 2014