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.

More students think marijuana is OK
More than a third of high school seniors surveyed reported smoking marijuana in the last year.
December 18th, 2013
12:02 AM ET

More students think marijuana is OK

Most teens may be "Above the Influence" when it comes to cocaine and cigarettes, but marijuana use is growing among students.

Sixty percent of U.S. high school seniors do not see regular marijuana use as harmful to their health, according to this year's Monitoring the Future survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. More than a third of the seniors surveyed reported smoking marijuana in the past 12 months.

Each year, the Monitoring the Future survey asks eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders about their drug and alcohol use and their attitudes toward illegal substances. For 2013, more than 41,000 students from 389 U.S. public and private schools participated.

Quit-smoking drugs safe for your heart
December 10th, 2013
11:03 AM ET

Quit-smoking drugs safe for your heart

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death world-wide. About half of all long-term smokers will die because of their addiction. But the good news is that nearly 70% of current smokers want to quit, says the CDC.

And using an effective treatment to help kick the habit can almost double or triple one's chance of success. Replacement therapies like the nicotine patch or gum, or medications like the antidepressant buproprion (sold as Wellbutrin or Zyban) and varenicline (commonly known as Chantix), can help reduce one's cravings to smoke and deal with withdrawal symptoms.

Headlines in recent years have questioned the cardiovascular risks of these drugs. But new research says that these drugs carry little risk of heart attack or stroke. FULL POST

July 29th, 2013
05:01 PM ET

Task force: Screen smokers for lung cancer

Editors note: This story was initially published in July. We're republishing because the final USPSTF recommendation was issued Monday.

For the first time the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending lung cancer screening for people who have a high risk of developing the disease. People who have a "30 pack year history of smoking" (for instance, at least 2 packs a year for 15 years), who are between the ages of 55 and 79, and who have smoked their last cigarette within the last 15 years are considered high risk.

The USPSTF's recommendations were published Monday. When it last looked at this in 2004, the group said the data was insufficient to recommend screening for lung cancer.

The task force's new recommendations are based on a review of seven clinical trials where researchers found Low-Dose Computed Tomography (CT) scanning was an effective way to detect lung cancer before patients began to show symptoms.

"Close to 160,000 people in the U.S. die from lung cancer every year," says Dr. Michael LeFevre, co-vice chair of USPSTF. That's more than breast, prostate and colon cancer deaths combined. LeFevre estimates that screening the right people may prevent up to 20,000 deaths each year.


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Filed under: Cancer • Conditions • Smoking

Quit smoking: Your heart will thank you
March 12th, 2013
04:01 PM ET

Quit smoking: Your heart will thank you

Cigarette smoking increases your heart rate, narrows the walls of your blood vessels and reduces the amount of oxygen being delivered to your system, among other things. That’s why smoking is considered a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Unfortunately, obesity is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. And most smokers gain between 6 and 13 pounds in the six months after they quit, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The benefits of quitting smoking are well known. “Cigarette smoking has short- and long-term cardiovascular effects that are reversible shortly after cessation,” according to the study authors.

But the researchers wanted to know if the weight gain following smoking cessation would counteract the positive effects quitting has on your cardiovascular system.

Heavy smokers can be successful lung donor candidates
January 29th, 2013
02:03 PM ET

Heavy smokers can be successful lung donor candidates

You might think that heavy smokers make for bad lung donors. But a new a study finds donors who smoked more than a pack of cigarettes a day for more than 20 years were strong candidates for double lung transplant donors.

The study was presented this week at the annual Society of Thoracic Surgeons meeting.

Authors of the study evaluated 5,900 adult double lung transplants between 2005 and 2011 in the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) database. UNOS is the nation’s organ transplant management system. Heavy smokers made up 13%, or 766 of the double lung transplants studied.

Researchers found that the patients who received the smokers' lungs had similar short and medium term survival rates as those who received lungs from people who did not smoke heavily. FULL POST

Doctors urged to intervene, prevent youth smoking
December 11th, 2012
11:50 AM ET

Doctors urged to intervene, prevent youth smoking

Primary care physicians should offer children and teens counseling and guidance to prevent them from starting smoking, according to draft guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

That’s a change from the group's 2003 guidelines, which found insufficient evidence to recommend for or against doctors taking actions to thwart tobacco use among younger patients.

Since then, “there were a bunch of new studies that were published throughout the last nine years that do point to a positive effect by primary physicians in their efforts to prevent tobacco initiation by kids,” explained USPSTF member Dr. David C. Grossman, a practicing pediatrician at the Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, Washington. FULL POST

This is your brain on smoking
November 28th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

This is your brain on smoking

That cigarette may be doing more damage than meets the eye. If you’ve been smoking for an extended period of time, you’re likely familiar with at least some – if not all – of the bodily symptoms associated with smoking, including but certainly not limited to: Cravings, coughing, shortness of breath and changes to teeth, hair and skin. Coronary heart disease and/or lung cancer might not be far behind.

But a new study published in the journal Age & Ageing concludes that smoking can damage your mind, too. A consistent association was observed between smoking and lower cognitive functioning, including memory.

The bottom line: Smoking and long-term high blood pressure appear to increase the risk of cognitive decline. FULL POST

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Filed under: Addiction • Alzheimer's • Brain • Cancer • Heart • Longevity • Smoking • Stroke

Anti-smoking laws spreading in large cities
November 15th, 2012
12:01 PM ET

Anti-smoking laws spreading in large cities

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that significant strides have been made in enacting anti-smoking laws across the United States, but still areas of the country remain that are largely lacking in protective measures against second-hand smoke.

Back in 2000, only one of America's 50 largest cities had laws that prevented people from smoking in bars, restaurants and private workplaces. In 2012, 30 of them were covered by anti-smoking laws, representing a 60% increase.

Also in 2000, there were no states with statewide anti-smoking policies of this nature. By 2010, there were 26 states.


1 in 3 college students has smoked hookah
June 7th, 2012
03:01 PM ET

1 in 3 college students has smoked hookah

The problem, Dr. Brian Primack says, is that hookah smoking is a beautiful thing.

Polished brass, woven rugs and intricate carvings create a culturally-rich atmosphere where friends can relax and socialize.

Unfortunately, smoking hookah delivers the same chemical compounds as smoking a cigarette. In fact, one session (usually about 45 to 60 minutes) delivers approximately 100 times the smoke as a single cigarette, with 40 times the tar and 10 times the carbon monoxide.

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About this blog

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.