Weatherford Democrat

January 23, 2014

Study: tobacco control saved 8 million lives


Weatherford Democrat

— By NICOLE LUNA | Lone Star News Group



A new study presented this month by the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates tobacco control in the U.S. has saved an estimated eight million lives in the last 50 years.

It was Jan. 11, 1964, when the first surgeon general’s report on smoking and health linked tobacco use to lung cancer and death.

The report inaugurated efforts to reduce cigarette smoking and its effects on health. Those efforts by governments, voluntary organizations, and the private sector ... have compromised the nation’s tobacco control efforts, according to the JAMA study.

The study, presented by Dr. Theodore R. Holford of the Yale University of Public Health and colleagues, shows that a total of 17.7 million deaths from 1964 to 2012 were related to smoking. Holford and colleagues said without any of the tobacco control methods an additional eight million lives would have been lost.

The researchers also determined that the average American lifespan is also more than two years longer because tobacco control has helped prevent those deaths.

“Tobacco control has made a unique and substantial contribution to public health over the past half century. This study provides a quantitative perspective to the magnitude of that contribution,” the researchers said.

Dr. Moustafa Banna, cardiologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Cleburne and Texas Health Physicians Group, said stopping smoking helps society as a whole.

Banna said a combination of youth education campaigns and sufficiently funding state tobacco and anti-smoking programs has made a difference over time. Because research has shown that less than 10 percent of smokers start smoking as adults, Banna said persistent efforts to keep children away from smoking is important.

“The change is telling children to exercise and be healthy,” he said. “The younger they are the more prone they are to listen.”

Previous research has also shown that people in the process of quitting can use devices as smoking cessation tools like e-cigarettes. However, Banna said it is good and bad to use those devices.

“Although the e-cigarette does remove the toxins found in cigarettes it can still introduce more people to nicotine, which is the addicting chemical found in tobacco,” he said.

The key for any smoker is to have the will to quit smoking, Banna said.

“An individual has to make the decision to stop and be willing, the behavior and mind is what needs to be modified,” he said.

In Texas, more than 24,000 Texans die from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke each year. The Texas Department of State Health Services also offers services for those willing to quit. 

After that individual has made that decision he or she can look for further assistance, such as the Texas Quitline at 1-877-YES-QUIT or visiting www.yesquit.com. This Quitline provides services in English and Spanish in which callers can receive free confidential services and tools to help them quit smoking.

Banna said smokers can look for help but it starts with their own decision to want to quit, and if they’re not serious about it, the outside resources won’t be of any use.