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Tobacco Use Causes 440,000 Deaths Per Year

More Health Hazards of Smoking Revealed By Latest Surgeon General Report

WASHINGTON, DC -- September 10, 2004 -- Smokers risk damage to almost all major organs in their bodies, according to the latest report by the surgeon general (Health Consequences of Smoking, Surgeon General's Report). The list of diseases caused by tobacco now includes cancers of the kidneys, stomach, cervix, and pancreas as well as leukemia, cataracts, pneumonia, and gum disease. These illnesses are in addition to diseases previously known to be caused by smoking-- bladder, esophageal, laryngeal, lung, oral, and throat cancers, chronic lung diseases, coronary heart and cardiovascular diseases, and sudden infant death syndrome.

Smoking also reduces overall health, contributing to conditions such as hip fractures, complications from diabetes, increased wound infections following surgery, and various reproductive problems. Smoking cigarettes with lower machine-measured yields of tar and nicotine does not help. "There is no safe cigarette, whether it is called 'light,' 'ultra-light,' or any other name," U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona commented. "The science is clear: the only way to avoid the health hazards of smoking is to quit completely or to never start smoking" (Health and Human Services, Press Release).

By current estimates, tobacco use causes 440,000 deaths per year and costs about $157 billion in health-related losses. An estimated 46,000 adults smoked in 2001. On average, men who smoke cut their lives short by 13.2 years, and female smokers lose 14.5 years. "Since the 1964 surgeon general's report, more than 12 million people have died from smoking-related illness," Dr. Carmona said. "These include 4.1 million deaths from cancer, 5.5 million deaths from cardiovascular diseases, 2.1 million deaths from respiratory diseases, and 94,000 perinatal deaths...We've known for decades that smoking is bad for your health, but this [latest] report shows that it's even worse than we knew. The toxins from cigarette smoke go everywhere the blood flows."

Quitting smoking has immediate as well as long-term benefits, according to the surgeon general's report. The heart rate drops towards normal and circulation improves. The risk of having a heart attack or stroke or of developing lung cancer diminishes. Even seniors who quit after many years can experience positive effects. A smoker who gives up the habit at the age of 65 reduces his or her risk of dying from a tobacco-related disease by half.

Learning More About Tobacco Use

The surgeon general's report was based on a review of 1,600 articles. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made these available to the public online on a searchable database (

For online tips and advice about how to quit smoking, see Tobacco Information and Prevention, and the American Cancer Society Guide to Quitting Smoking. The American Cancer Society Guide provides a smoking cessation plan, explains how to deal with withdrawal and cravings, and lists useful anti-tobacco groups.

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