By Anna Edney
A half century after linking smoking to lung cancer, the U.S. is confronting stalled progress in kicking the habit of 42 million Americans with new evidence that many common ailments such as diabetes, arthritis and impotence can be tied to tobacco use.
Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak in a report Friday criticized the “fraudulent campaigns” by cigarette companies, weaknesses in regulation and a rebound in smoking depicted in Hollywood films.
He said he’s considering greater restrictions on sales to achieve “a society free of tobacco-related death and disease.”
While a landmark 1964 report on smoking and lung cancer helped cut cigarette use by more than half to 18 percent of U.S. adults, the decline has slowed. Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death, killing 480,000 people each year, and the U.S. might miss a 2020 goal of limiting to 12 percent the share of smoking adults, Friday’s report shows.
“Enough is enough,” Lushniak said repeatedly at a news conference in Washington where he presented the more than 900-page report.
The report shows the U.S. must be more aggressive in promoting tobacco control than regulators have been, he said.
Maintaining the status quo on tobacco control will lead to further stalling in the declining rate of smoking, said Lushniak, whose job serves as the nation’s main public-health advocate. He placed part of the blame on tobacco companies.
“The tobacco epidemic was initiated and has been sustained by the aggressive strategies of the tobacco industry, which has deliberately misled the public on the risk of smoking cigarettes,” he said in the report.
“There are a substantial number of diseases, not just cancer, but certain cardiovascular disease, stroke, respiratory disease, whether it’s chronic lung disease or asthma, the list goes on and on about how tobacco impacts this country,” said Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer at the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society.
Smokers also have as much as a 40 percent higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and the habit is attributable to erectile dysfunction and deadly ectopic pregnancies where the embryo implants in the Fallopian tube or elsewhere outside the uterus, according to the report.
People exposed to second-hand smoke are as much as 30 percent more likely to have a stroke.