It’s been ten years since the FDA was given the mandate from Congress to fully regulate the tobacco industry and tasked with the critical responsibility of protecting the health of our nation. And still, the FDA has not fulfilled its mission to reduce the deadly toll of tobacco use.
New Surgeon General's Report Calls for Tobacco End Game
13 cancers and more than 20 other chronic diseases and the number of tobacco-related illnesses continues to grow. Tobacco use is wreaking havoc on the health of our nation, and today the Surgeon General's report added more diseases, including colorectal and liver cancers, to the list of conditions that can be caused by smoking. If there was ever a wakeup call about the need to make tobacco control a priority, this is it. This morning at a White House event, acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak released the 32nd Surgeon General's report: The Health Consequences of Smoking 50 Years of Progress. The report is an important compilation of the more than 50 years of strong scientific data showing how the tobacco epidemic has caused an enormous avoidable public health tragedy. The report reveals that 480,000 Americans die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, nearly 21 million Americans have died prematurely from tobacco use since 1964 and tobacco use costs the economy about $300 billion per year in health care costs and lost productivity.
Some people will ask: Why is this new Surgeon General's report a big deal? We all know smoking is bad for us. This report is a big deal because it shines a bright light on the fact that despite significant progress in the past 50 years, there is more work to do and, for the first time, it gives us a road map for a tobacco end game. The end game, a concept many countries around the world have started to work towards, is possible with widespread implementation of the tobacco control laws proven to curb tobacco use significant, consistent increases in tobacco taxes, comprehensive smoke-free laws and fully funded tobacco cessation and prevention programs and through specific actions by the FDA such as reducing nicotine in tobacco to non-addictive levels. The other reason this report is important is because it appropriately blames the tobacco industry for perpetuating the global tobacco epidemic. Many people might not realize that the tobacco industry continues to challenge tobacco control victories in court, manipulate products to evade existing regulations, introduce new and dangerous tobacco products and spend billions on marketing to deceive the public and addict more kids. So, while it is common knowledge that smoking is bad for us, it's dangerous to rest on past progress while an unscrupulous, unrelenting industry looks for every possible opportunity to continue to addict and kill people with its products. We must continue to fight back with strong tobacco control laws, and the new Surgeon General's report should reenergize our lawmakers to act, so that 50 years from now we aren't reading another Surgeon General's report on the deadly impact of smoking.