HHS To Release New Tobacco Report, Database This Year
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and Surgeon General Richard Carmona on Saturday announced that this year they will issue a new report on tobacco and health and launch a new database of information on tobacco-related diseases and tobacco cessation. Thompson and Carmona made the announcement to mark the 40th anniversary of the announcement of the link between smoking and lung cancer by former Surgeon General Luther Terry. The report, "The Health Consequences of Smoking," will examine at the effects of tobacco on every system in the human body. The database, which the Office of the Surgeon General will develop and make available to health professionals and the public, will have information on tobacco research, treatment and prevention. Thompson said that the report and database "will provide a new level of support and comprehensiveness in helping us understand the health effects of tobacco and helping Americans avoid this single most significant preventable cause of death and disease." Carmona added, "Those who smoke need to quit, and we need to work together to get kids to stop starting" (HHS release, 1/10).
Since the announcement of the link between smoking and lung cancer in 1964, U.S. smoking rates have decreased by 50%, the federal government has banned cigarette advertisements on television and many smokers have attempted to quit, but the decrease today has "reached a plateau," Cox/Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Former Surgeon General David Satcher said, "Despite all that we know about smoking and health, over 50 million people (in the United States) are still smoking. There's no way to feel comfortable with that." Smoking rates decreased "only minimally in the 1990s," and tobacco-related deaths among women remained at about 80,000 per year, Cox/Times-Dispatch reports. "We have picked the low-hanging fruit. We're working today with a harder core of smokers who have heard the word and are not willing or able to do something about it," Tom Glynn, director of cancer science and trends at the American Cancer Society, said. However, Glynn said, "The world is certainly a different place" since the announcement, adding, "We've moved from total acceptance of tobacco to a situation where virtually everyone, including smokers, is aligned against it" (Cox/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/12). Scripps Howard/Detroit News on Sunday examined federal anti-smoking efforts, which have "been more a matter of education and encouragement than eradication," since the announcement (Bowman, Scripps Howard/Detroit News, 1/11).
NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday" interviewed Dr. Steven Schroeder, chair of the American Legacy Foundation, about the anniversary of the announcement of the link between smoking and lung cancer (Hansen, "Weekend Edition Sunday," NPR, 1/11). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. In addition, NPR's "Talk of the Nation" on Thursday discussed the anniversary of the announcement. Guests on the program included Kristin Collins, a reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer; Cheryl Healton, president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation; and Philip Hilts, former New York Times correspondent and author of "Protecting America's Health: The FDA, Business and One Hundred Years of Regulation" (Conan, "Talk of the Nation," NPR, 1/8). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
In related news, a study published last week in BMJ found that individuals who smoke low-tar cigarettes do not have a lower risk for lung cancer than those who smoke regular cigarettes, the AP/Detroit Free Press reports. In the study -- the first to compare lung cancer deaths among smokers of ultralight, mild and medium-filtered cigarettes -- researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and ACS examined the link between the tar content of cigarettes smoked in 1982 and deaths from lung cancer in the subsequent six years among 940,774 U.S. residents older than age 30; study participants included current and former smokers, as well as individuals who had never smoked. The study found that participants who smoked non-filtered cigarettes had a higher risk of lung cancer than those who smoked filtered cigarettes, although they found no difference in the lung cancer death rate among those who smoked medium filtered cigarettes and those who smoked mild and ultralight cigarettes. "There was not a shred of evidence of reduced risk" for lung cancer for individuals who smoker low-tar cigarettes, Michael Thun, chief of epidemiology at ACS, said (Ross, AP/Detroit Free Press, 1/9). The study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.