Cigarettes Tied To More Deaths, Types Of Illness
Cigarettes are deadlier and linked to more diseases than previously thought, according to a new report from the U.S. surgeon general being released 50 years after the government first warned that smoking kills.
In the report to be released Friday, the nation's top doctor warned that smoking is linked to the deaths of about 480,000 Americans annually. That's a substantial increase over the government's previous estimate of 443,000 deaths, despite the fact that fewer Americans are lighting up and those who do smoke are lighting up less often.
Cigarettes are a causal factor in 10 diseases and conditions they hadn't previously been definitively linked to, including diabetes, colorectal cancer, arthritis and erectile dysfunction, the report said -- bringing the total number to more than 30.
In 1964, a landmark surgeon general report pinpointed smoking as a cause of lung and laryngeal cancers as well as bronchitis. That report precipitated warnings on cigarette packs, advertising bans and other regulations. Since then, such restrictions have contributed to a decline in U.S. smoking rates, though the pace has slowed in recent years. An estimated 18.1% of U.S. adults smoked in 2012, down from 42% in 1965.
Friday's report suggests the design and composition of today's cigarette is more dangerous than the 1950s equivalent because of the introduction of ventilated filters and rising levels of cancer-causing chemicals in recent decades. Cigarettes with ventilated filters were initially marketed as safer, though smokers tend to cover up the filters and inhale more deeply, pushing toxins farther into the lungs.
'I think they are more harmful today. We're certainly worried,' Surgeon General Boris Lushniak said in an interview.
Spokesmen at Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. and Camel maker Reynolds American Inc., which together sell about three of four U.S. cigarettes, reiterated that no cigarettes are safe. They declined to comment on whether current cigarettes are more dangerous than those from half a century ago.
While American smokers have more tobacco-cessation products and alternatives such as electronic cigarettes to help them kick the habit, they aren't being encouraged to quit smoking as aggressively as they once were because funding for antismoking campaigns has declined, public health officials say.
The report estimates the U.S. smoking rate could still be as high as 15% in 2050 based on recent trends, above the government's 2020 target of 12%. It says 5.6 million Americans currently younger than 18 would die prematurely from smoking, adding to the more than 20 million early deaths linked to smoking in the past 50 years.
'We haven't been investing in tobacco control adequately,' Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview.
For the first time, secondhand smoke was cited as a cause of stroke, increasing risk by between 20% and 30%, according to the report.
The report said the risk of lung cancer, the nation's most common cancer killer, has skyrocketed in the past half century for smokers. For male smokers, risk of lung cancer was 25 times that of nonsmoking peers, up from 12.2 in 1959, according to cited studies by the American Cancer Society. For women who smoke, the divergence is even starker, with lung-cancer risk 25.7 times that of nonsmokers, up from 2.7.
The surgeon general said there is sufficient evidence that the rise in lung-cancer incidence was caused by changes in the design and composition of cigarettes since the 1950s. The government increasingly believes that perforated filters and increased levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines 'have played a role,' the report added.
In the 1970s, tobacco companies began marketing 'light' or 'mild' cigarettes that typically featured ventilated filters and often contained less nicotine.
Machine tests indicated they were less harmful because the holes allowed air to dilute the tobacco smoke. But researchers say in practice, smokers cover the holes with their mouth or fingers.
Tobacco companies, which marketed them as less harmful, have been prohibited from labeling cigarettes as light or mild since 2010. But they remain hugely popular under different names. Top-selling Marlboro Light is now called Marlboro Gold and Camel Light cigarettes are now sold as Camel Blue.
万宝路(Marlboro)制造商奥驰亚集团(Altria Group Inc.)的发言人以及骆驼(Camel)的制造商Reynolds American Inc.重申，没有一种香烟是安全的。美国每四支香烟中有三支是这两家公司出售的。对于目前的香烟是否比半个世纪前更具危险性的问题，他们未予置评。
美国疾病控制与预防中心(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)的负责人弗里登(Tom Frieden)在一次采访中说，我们对烟草控制的投入一直不足。
报告称，过去半个世纪吸烟者患肺癌（美国最常见的癌症杀手）的风险已经大幅上升。据美国癌症协会(American Cancer Society)引述的研究报告，男性吸烟者患肺癌的风险是不吸烟男性的25倍，1959年是12.2倍。女性吸烟者患肺癌的风险是不吸烟女性的25.7倍，1959年是2.7倍。
自2010年以来，那些曾在这些香烟的推广中打着危害更低旗号的烟草公司，已被禁止给香烟贴上淡味或者柔和的标签，但这类香烟换个名仍极受欢迎。最畅销的特醇万宝路(Marlboro Light)现在名为金装万宝路(Marlboro Gold)，特醇骆驼(Camel Light)现在名为骆驼（蓝）(Camel Blue)。