Newswise — January 17, 2014 – On the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, the American Thoracic Society and its members reaffirm their long commitment to understanding and fighting against the diseases and mortality caused by smoking.
"At this point, we're still identifying new consequences of active and passive smoking, which is quite remarkable 50 years on," says Jonathan M. Samet, MD, senior scientific editor of the 2014, 2006, and 2004 Surgeon General’s reports and professor and Flora L. Thornton chair in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, and director of the USC Institute for Global Health.
Dr. Samet is a member of the American Thoracic Society’s Tobacco Action Committee, which coordinates the Society’s tobacco control activities, including research, clinical, educational, advocacy and policy activities, with the ultimate goal of minimizing the impact of tobacco on morbidity and mortality worldwide.
"The heterogeneity of the tobacco epidemic is an important consideration," Dr. Samet says. "In 1964, the majority of men and a substantial proportion of woment smoked. Now smoking is far higher among disadvantaged people with less education, and less money. What will be important about this anniversary report is a statement as to where the nation is going to go in its efforts to curb tobacco use further."
Dr. Samet notes that the list of cancers known to be caused by smoking will continue to grow, and that the report's authors looked closely at smoking, immunity and diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. "There are health problems related to smoking that are of importance to clinicians and patients that have not been recognized as well as they should," Dr. Samet says.
Data from the Surgeon General's reports indicates that:
• More than 440,000 Americans die every year from smoking.
• Eight million Americans live with at least one serious chronic disease caused by smoking.
• The cost of smoking to the U.S. economy is $193 billion a year, including nearly $96 billion in direct medical costs and an additional $97 billion in lost productivity.
The new report will have an extensive chapter regarding usage of tobacco products, but the emergence of e-cigarettes and that new industry's nearly $2 billion market could only be acknowledged, as not enough research and conclusive evidence is yet available. "It's a different market from the tobacco market," Dr. Samet says. "All of the major tobacco companies have an e-cigarette product, but there are many additional companies with e-cigarettes."
Science and discoveries by ATS members have always played an important role in the Surgeon General reports and in advocacy efforts. "The ATS has a strong history of supporting tobacco control measures," says ATS President Patricia Finn, MD. "Our tobacco control strategies include efforts to reduce respiratory health disparities as different groups, including minorities, the poor and the mentally ill, are disproportionately affected."
"The 50th anniversary Report on Smoking and Health reminds us of how far we've come, and how far we have to go," says Frank T. Leone, MD, MS, associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and vice-chair of the ATS Tobacco Action Committee. "ATS members are making critical contributions to our understanding of the complex social, environmental, and biological determinants of tobacco dependence, which will in turn help guide future tobacco control strategies."
Dr. Samet adds: "Good science is a critical starting point for tobacco control, and the ATS has been an important venue for the exchange of information. What the ATS can do as an organization is to make certain that the translational significance of the research is understood by decision makers. The ATS is one of the many voices calling for tobacco control, and I think we need as many voices as possible."