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Leading Health Groups Call for Bold Action to End the Tobacco Epidemic In the United States

Nation Challenged to Cut Smoking Rates to Under 10 Percent in 10 Years and Protect All Americans from Secondhand Smoke within 5 years

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the United States marks the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health, seven leading public health and medical organizations today called for a new national commitment to end the tobacco epidemic for good.

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At a press conference today, the organizations called for bold action by all levels of government to achieve three goals:

  • Reduce smoking rates, currently at about 18 percent, to less than 10 percent within 10 years;
  • Protect all Americans from secondhand smoke within five years; and
  • Ultimately eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco use.

The seven groups issuing the call to action are the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Legacy®.

These seven organizations issued the following joint statement:

The first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health, issued on January 11, 1964, was a historic turning point in the nation's fight against tobacco use.

Our organizations celebrate the remarkable progress of the past 50 years.  The United States has cut smoking rates by more than half (from 42.4 percent in 1965 to 18 percent today) and per capita consumption of cigarettes by more than 70 percent.  While smoking was allowed almost everywhere in 1964, today nearly half the nation's population is protected by smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces, restaurants and bars.  Reductions in smoking have saved millions of lives and are responsible for 30 percent of the increase in the life expectancy of Americans since 1964, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).  The fight against tobacco has been a tremendous public health achievement.

However, the battle is far from over.  Tobacco use is still the number one cause of preventable death in the United States.  Smoking kills more than 440,000 Americans each year, sickens millions more and costs the nation $193 billion annually in health care expenditures and lost productivity.  About 44 million adults still smoke, and more than 3,000 kids try their first cigarette each day.  It is unacceptable that tobacco still kills so many Americans, lures so many children, devastates so many families and places such a huge burden on our nation's health care system.

On the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General's report, it is time for a new national commitment to end the tobacco epidemic for good.  Today our organizations call for bold action by all levels of government to achieve three goals: 1) Reduce smoking rates, currently at about 18 percent, to less than 10 percent within 10 years; 2) protect all Americans from secondhand smoke within five years; and 3) ultimately eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco.

Over the past 50 years, we have developed proven strategies that can achieve these goals if they are fully and effectively implemented.  These strategies include tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws, hard-hitting mass media campaigns, health insurance coverage to ensure smokers have access to quit-smoking treatments, and well-funded, sustained programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.  In 2009, these measures were supplemented with a powerful new tool when the Food and Drug Administration was granted authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products, for the first time empowering a federal agency to rein in the tobacco industry's harmful practices.

We have the tools to end the tobacco epidemic for good.  We cannot afford to wait another 50 years.

Related materials: Downloadable charts showing progress since 1964

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

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