Recently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) embarked on a major 50 state anti-smoking effort. The thrust of the program is to enhance public education and to develop a national anti-smoking policy. Simply stated, the goal is to reduce the death count (and related illnesses) from smoking in the United States. Currently some 444,000 people die annually from direct and indirect tobacco diseases.
Men still dominate the statistics with about 270,000 fatalities per year (averaged between 2000 and 2004); female deaths totaled 174,000 during the same period.
This means that during an average 10-year period, nearly 4.5 million people in the U.S. alone will die prematurely due to the use of cigarettes.
Results globally are equally staggering. According to a study led by researchers at the University of Queensland and the Harvard School of Public Health, around 5 million people died from smoking-related causes in 2000. Men were even more likely than women to succumb to smoking-related diseases. In developing countries, for example, more than 80 percent of deaths were among men.
While these numbers are impressive, consider adjusting them to an hourly time frame. Using an average of 365.25 days per year (incorporating leap years), an average year has 8766 hours. This means that almost 51 people die due to smoking every hour in the U.S. That’s about one person every minute.
Globally, the smoking-related death toll is around 570 people per hour or almost 10 people per minute.
Smoking does more than kill, however. Statistics amassed by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and others show that smoking brings along many other negatives (e.g., reduced quality of life, shortened life spans, loss of productivity, increased sick days, greater risk of heart and lung disease and increased risks associated with pregnancy and childhood illnesses).
In fact, in 2000, the CDC estimates that about 8.6 million people were suffering from at least one chronic disease due to current or former smoking. Many of these people were actually suffering from more than one smoking-related condition – chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer.
Thus, the efforts to curtail smoking are based on a solid health footing.
But, the CDC anti-smoking effort provides other insight into smoking across the U.S. Using a “smoking prevalence” index (the percentage of people in each state who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and currently smoke regularly), the CDC found that the region from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi-Alabama Gulf Coast and from the Appalachians to the Mississippi River fared the worst. West Virginia topped the scales at 26.5 percent. But, Indiana (26 percent), Kentucky (25.2 percent), Missouri (25 percent) and Oklahoma (24.7 percent) led the Nation. Utah (9.3 percent) and California (14 percent) had the lowest smoking incidence.
Many of the lowest smoking states used one or more of the stop/prevent smoking strategies that the CDC has outlined in the past. These include increasing the price of tobacco products, enacting and enforcing smoke-free laws, curtailing tobacco advertising and promotion, enacting anti-smoking media campaigns, limiting access to tobacco products and encouraging and offering assistance to smokers to quit.
Further testimony to reducing cigarette use is linked to groups that promote nonsmoking as part of their religion. Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists have much lower rates of lung and other smoking-related cancers than most other groups
Quitting pays generous dividends, too. The CDC notes that the risk of developing most smoking illnesses lowers the longer one quits and younger one is when they do quit. In fact, people who stop smoking at younger ages gain the greatest benefits. Quitting by age 35 eliminates 90% of the risk due to tobacco use. Still, as the CDC notes, “The argument that ‘it is too late to quit smoking because the damage is already done,’ is not true.”
The message is clear – smoking is hazardous to your life; quitting (or never starting) is better for you, your loved ones, your friends and your co-workers.