Washington, D.C., Jan. 17, 2014 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments today on the Surgeon General’s Report: The Health Consequences of Smoking — 50 Years of Progress:
“Over the last 50 years, more than 20 million Americans could have lived healthier and longer lives if they had never lit their first cigarette. Even more disturbing is the fact that every one of these deaths was entirely preventable. The evidence that smoking kills is now even more overwhelming and undeniable. We must take the bold and urgent actions necessary to wipe out the curse of tobacco forever.
The new Surgeon General’s report examines the terrible toll smoking has taken on our nation and provides a troubling breakdown of how those 20 million individuals lost their lives to addiction. One statistic stands out for our organization – about 7.8 million of the 20 million tragically died from cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
The report also points to something that never occurred to Americans back in the 1960s – just being in the same room with a smoker can cause you irreparable harm. Two and half million of those who died were non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke. Ongoing exposure, according to the report, can increase your risk of stroke by 20 to 30 percent. But smoke-free policies can result in a reduction of coronary events in people younger than 65. More importantly, smokers who quit by age 40 can virtually eliminate their risk of heart disease. Even if you give up smoking later in life, you can still dramatically reduce your risk. This new information gives a welcome boost to the American Heart Association’s efforts to pass smoke-free laws in all 50 states and increase resources to help people quit smoking.
Another alarming new statistic from the report is that 5.6 million young Americans who are alive today will die from smoking – unless we take action now. It is shocking how little we employ the solutions that can help us avert more unnecessary deaths and end this epidemic once and for all. Combined interventions — such as mass media campaigns, well-funded state prevention and cessation programs, increased tobacco taxes, and smoke-free laws — reduce tobacco use among youth and adults. The association strongly supports all of these interventions.
While the tobacco control movement has achieved astounding results in the past five decades, this report now estimates almost half a million Americans still die every year from smoking. Those individuals and the 20 million who died before them are a terrible loss. We hope the new Surgeon General’s report will finally prompt the few remaining skeptics to join the vast majority of Americans in the fight to make our nation 100 percent tobacco-free.”