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January 7th, 2014
04:27 PM ET

Anti-smoking efforts have saved 8 million lives

Fifty years ago, Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry made a bombshell announcement: "The strongest relationship between cigarette smoking and health is in the field of lung cancer. There is a very strong relationship, and probably a causal relationship, between heart disease and cigarette smoking."

It was the first time a surgeon general said that smokers had a 70% greater chance of death and that heavy smokers were 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers.

The landmark report launched one of the biggest public health campaigns in U.S. history, including warning labels on cigarettes, cigarette advertising banned on TV and radio, graphic public service announcements, and anti-smoking laws.

Now a new study in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association - which has devoted its entire issue to tobacco and smoking - estimates that tobacco control efforts since the first Surgeon General's report have added 20 years of life for 8 million Americans. Without tobacco control, half of those Americans would have died before the age of 65.

"The report and subsequent tobacco control efforts represent the most dramatic and successful public health campaign in modern history, in terms of benefit to the entire population," says the study's senior author, David Levy, a population scientist at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The authors used data from the National Health Interview Surveys to estimate what life without tobacco control would be like, and compared it to smoking and life expectancy trends since 1964.

They also found that tobacco control has extended life expectancy by 2 years for men, and more than 1.5 years for women over the age of 40.

That first surgeon general's report was a flash point for many Americans.  As Stanton Glantz, professor of tobacco control at the University of California, explains: "The surgeon general's report was the beginning of changes in public attitudes in smoking, which began to lay the foundation for a lot of the progress that we've seen today."

Warnings began appearing on cigarette packages across the country. The first simply said: "Smoking could be hazardous to your health."

Over the years, the warnings have become more direct. In 1970, the label read, "The Surgeon General has determined that cigarette smoking is dangerous to our health."

Today, warning labels flat-out say: "Cigarettes are addictive"; "Cigarettes cause fatal lung disease"; and "Smoking can kill you."

Today, almost half of all U.S. residents are covered by some sort of indoor smoking ban, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And while progress has been made, CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden told CNN's Sanjay Gupta that there is still work to do.

"Well, it's kind of a glass half empty, glass half full story," Frieden said. "On the one hand, half as high of a percentage of adults smoke, on the other hand it remains the leading preventable cause of death in this country, and if you smoke, quitting is by far the single most important thing you can do to improve your health."

More than 440,000 Americans still die from smoking every year, according to the CDC. And approximately 3,900 people under the age of 17 will pick up a cigarette for the first time this year.


soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. http://www.google.com/

    I don't smoke!!!

    January 8, 2014 at 09:05 | Report abuse | Reply
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      January 16, 2014 at 22:16 | Report abuse |
  2. tericrosschetwood

    Imagine how many lives we could save if we outlawed tobacco all together? But why stop there? Outlaw alcohol to stop drunk driving. Outlaw slides on playgrounds because children might fall. Get rid of guns, knives, plastic soda bottle caps, cars that go over 8 miles an hour, and people who don't like the nanny-state.

    I feel safer already.

    January 8, 2014 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      Blah, blah, blah, "nanny state," blah, blah y blah.

      Nobody said anything about "outlawing tobacco," and if you had a clue you'd know that Prohibition was a failure. There's nothing wrong with telling smokers not to infringe on the right of others to breathe. If you want to smoke yourself into an early grave, you go right ahead. But don't take others with you by smoking in or near their homes or workplaces. You don't have the right to do that.

      January 8, 2014 at 09:49 | Report abuse |
  3. cecil

    I am 61 years old and smoke 3 packs a day – yes I am aware that smoking can kill me. Please explain to me how you are going to live forever.

    January 8, 2014 at 10:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      Who said anyone was going to "live forever"? I don't care if you smoke or not. Just don't expose me to your carcinogens, and don't go to the hospital to die if you aren't insure. There's no reason I should have to bear the cost of your treatment.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:12 | Report abuse |
    • ser

      3 packs a day...jesus H christ....where do you find the time????

      January 8, 2014 at 12:15 | Report abuse |
  4. rbockman

    are they sure it was not 7.9 million

    January 8, 2014 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Styx

    Its all B.S. u mean to tell me that smoking bans have saved millions. I hardly believe that because of air pollution, industrial smog and automotive emissions. Eliminate air, ground and water pollution, and then see how many lives you save. A smoking ban is stupid and doesn't save anyone. What is worse, walking through a parking garage or down a city street or someone smoking nearby?

    January 8, 2014 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      Sure, the researchers don't know anything and you are smarter than all of them. It's just so wonderful, Styx, that you are here to educate us all. Why should we pay attention to actual science when we have YOU?

      January 12, 2014 at 10:46 | Report abuse |
  6. Jerry Segers

    This looks like another bogus study. While their methodology for determining the number of deaths seems sound, the underlying assumption that smoking kills people may not be so sound. The usual case made is that smoking causes lung cancer. Looking at the smoking habits contained in this report we see that smoking has been going down continuously since the 1960's for both male and females. The study noted that approximately 30% of the male population and 20% of the female population have stopped smoking between 1960 and 2010. This is the fact on which their results are based. Now take a look at the incidence of lung cancer from the American Lung Cancer Fact Sheet:

    http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/lung-cancer/resources/facts-figures/lung-cancer-fact-sheet.html#Prevalence_and_Incidence

    The middle chart shows that lung cancer has been continually on the increase for women and rose then dropped slightly in men. No rational person would say these charts are of the same phenomenon even if you wait 30-40 years for the lung cancer to appear.

    It appears we as a society are so engaged in the idea the cigarettes will kill you and the tobacco companies are evil incarnate, that it is no longer possible to get reliable rational research on the subject.

    P.S. I quit smoking in the 1960's and I am still alive so I guess I am one of those that were saved. Sigh.....

    January 8, 2014 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      Is it possible that people are not dying younger from other causes and therefore are living long enough for lung cancer to occur?

      January 8, 2014 at 15:09 | Report abuse |
    • NurseC

      I am an ER nurse, and believe me, smokers are our best customers. Do you know how stupid it sounds for someone to come in complaining of shortness of breath and wreaking of cigarette smoke. Happens several times a day. Smoking makes you sick eventually. Yes, everyone dies. If you die from smoking, you will probably die a horrible, sad, painful death from cancer, emphysema, heart disease. You may get lucky and develop long term disabilities like frequent bronchitis, pneumonias, throat cancers requiring surgical intervention and artificial airways, peripheral vascular disease and diabetes (amputations, dialysis), all of which require long term medical management and often frequent hospital/
      ER visits. These people are often either uninsured or cant pay the mounds of hospital bills that insurance doesn't cover. They are a parasite on our health care system. Second, I am tired of not being able to go places without someone thinking it's ok to light one up around my child. Some people smoke so much that just being in the vicinity of them is a health hazard (sarcasm). Well that's my 2 cents worth. You have all the info you need to make your own decision. It's your life. You may feel good now, but you're at the age (60) where we really start seeing the effects of long term smoking.

      January 12, 2014 at 08:37 | Report abuse |
  7. Name*elle

    I agree these campaigns have saved jobs. Cigarettes suck.

    But I'm flabbergasted that even as the war on tobacco intensifies, smoking marihuana is increasingly decriminalized. In 50 years you'll need a prescription for tobacco products and pseudoephidrene, but you'll probably be able to buy pot and oxytocin in a store...

    January 8, 2014 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Name*elle

    (Saved lives)

    January 8, 2014 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. hardy

    Yes thats wonderful now there will be that many people to have an extra 10 years doddering on a bed.

    January 8, 2014 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. cali girl

    It is really sad when you see 20 somethings still lighting up. At college there were thousands of them walking around puffing. Kids getting a good education still could not figure out smoking is bad for you in every way possible.

    January 8, 2014 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Timmy Suckle

    But I have cost thousands of lives.

    I kissed my way up to VP at a health insurance company. Now I take over $700,000 of your health care dollars for NO VALUE ADDED to your health care. And that’s just me. Now think about how many other VPs, Directors, Managers, etc. are at my company alone. Now multiply that by thousands of others at hundreds of other health insurance companies. From 10 to 25% of your health care dollars go towards administration that adds NO VALUE to your health care. But my company’s PAC dollars will continue to fool you little people into thinking that a single payer system will be bad. Little people like you are so easy to fool. Little people also don’t realize that a single payer system is the ONLY system that would allow little people (as an entire country) to negotiate better health care prices. Little people don’t realize that the Medical Cartels already know that. And that is the reason why the Medical Cartels spend so much PAC money from the hospitals and doctors lobbying against a single payer system. Some little people say that a single payer system would cost you little people more. But if that were true, then wouldn’t the hospitals and doctors WANT that extra money? Yes they would. So why do the Medical Cartels lobby against a single payer system? It’s because the Medical Cartels know it would allow little people to negotiate better health care prices. And that’s what the Medical Cartels are afraid of. Period.
    But us big wigs at insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmacy companies don’t ever need to worry about health care no matter what it costs. We get our health care paid for one way or another by you little people. And we get the little people that work at our companies to contribute to our PACs. And us big wigs say it’s to protect the little peoples’ jobs. But in reality it would be in the little peoples’ best interest to NOT contribute to the PAC. Again, little people are so easily fooled. I won’t ever have to worry about losing my job with so many little people being brain washed by the Medical Cartels’ PAC money. Not only that, the Medical Cartels’ PAC money is used to elect so many republicans that will never allow a single payer system. Republicans have always fought against any meaningful health care reform. But that’s what our Medical Cartels’ PACs pay them for. Politicians can be bought so easily.
    Pretty soon the only people that will be able to afford health care is us big wigs. And that’s the way it should be. We don’t want you little people using up the resources when we need them. And once again, I thank you little people for capping my SS tax at the $117,000 level. Now I only pay 1.2% SS tax and you little people pay 6.2%. Also, thank you for extending my tax breaks. I’m using the extra money on my vacation houses.

    January 9, 2014 at 11:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      ^^^Troll^^

      January 9, 2014 at 17:57 | Report abuse |
    • Spot On

      But a CORRECT troll.

      January 13, 2014 at 16:59 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      Then you should be able to prove it. Back it up with sources, dearie, or he ISN'T 'correct' at all. He's posted this crap more than once. Pony up.

      January 13, 2014 at 19:04 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      How do you know that the administrators "add no value"? Someone has to be running the company, and the degree of expertise he/she has determines what value is added. Who, exactly, are the dreaded "Medical Cartels"? Name them and cite your sources. Where are you getting your figures for an "SS cap"? Where do you get the "1.2%" figure? Can you back it up with a source that isn't a conspiracy site? Your claims don't make any sense.

      January 14, 2014 at 11:11 | Report abuse |
    • Spot On

      Such a foolish, foolish, brainwashed "little person".

      January 14, 2014 at 16:14 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      Thanks for playing, honey. I knew you couldn't come up with anything in the way of substance.

      January 14, 2014 at 17:14 | Report abuse |
    • Spot On

      No. It's just that if you're too stupid to understand Timmy Suckle's original post, you're too stupid to understand the responses.

      It's not worth responding to someone so stupid that they think insurance companies ADD VALUE to your health care. Because they don't.

      January 20, 2014 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      And another worthless post that reveals you have no facts with which to argue. But keep on posting, sweet cheeks. It's a hoot reading your posts.

      January 20, 2014 at 15:07 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      "It's not worth responding…"

      And yet, somehow, you felt compelled to do so.

      January 20, 2014 at 15:47 | Report abuse |
    • Spot On

      Why don't you calculate for me how much a person that makes $700,000 per year pays in SS taxes for me. And show the result as a percent of total income. Go for it.

      January 21, 2014 at 16:29 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      What's the matter, dear? Can't do your own homework?

      Not my claim. The burden of proof is on you. You have yet to answer a single challenge with anything approaching a fact.

      January 21, 2014 at 17:16 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      Who are the "Medical Cartels"? How many VPs are earning "$700,000"? Can you prove it? Go ahead. Can you show evidence that "10%-25% of" my health care dollar goes to people who are earning that salary? Go ahead. Can you show that health care administrators never lose their jobs? Can you prove it with statistics?

      I'm all for a single-payer system. What I dislike is bloviating fools like "Timmy Suckle" posting crap that has nothing whatever to do with the subject of the article and doofuses like you defending their silly conspiracy theories without anything factual to back up your hero-worship.

      January 21, 2014 at 17:27 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      :Crickets chirping:

      Pretty much what I expected. Why can't you produce the names of *all* these *VPs* who are earning $700,000 a year? Where are all their *vacation homes*?

      The fact is that you've been reading bilge like "naturalnews" and are under the illusion that it actually has merit as a source.

      January 21, 2014 at 20:01 | Report abuse |
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    January 10, 2014 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
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    January 10, 2014 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. gotsteam

    The head of the CD, Dr. Thomas Frieden is nothing but a shill for Big Pharma. His PIMPs are called Phizer, Johnson & Johnson, and GlaxoSmithKline to name a few. Many at the CDC have even worked for these private pharmaceutical companies. Big Pharmaceutical companies have a HUGE influence on policy making. You tell me why the CDC does not endorse e-cigarettes and PUSHES only FDA approved drugs like a drug dealer to assist people in quitting the deadly cigarette habit?

    This video is nothing more than a commercial for FDA approved quit smoking drugs and NOT a real journalistic piece without opposition or even a mention of tobacco harm reduction. Shame on you CNN for not presenting all the facts.

    January 12, 2014 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      Yeah, yeah. Another conspiracy theorist. *yawn*

      You folks are delusional and boring.

      January 12, 2014 at 19:16 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      Why should anybody endorse e-cigarettes, when they simply supply the addict with nicotine, rather than help him or her overcome dependence on it?

      January 12, 2014 at 19:55 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      I wonder, got, do you think e-cigs don't make a profit for their manufacturers?

      January 12, 2014 at 20:05 | Report abuse |
  15. RHReese

    Anti-smoking efforts have saved 8 million lives. There is no way they can attribute Anti-smoking campaigns to saving 8 million lives. Just more government propaganda to make them look good. They take credit for people who swallow saliva over a lifetime and not getting cancer from it their doing by their effort to reduce cancer. What a joke we have governing this country.

    May 3, 2014 at 08:08 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.