It is rather old news that tobacco is related to human health problems. Yet researchers were stunned to discovered that smoking is deadlier than previously believed. The U.S. Surgeon General report found that cigaret smoke is not only “causally linked” to lung cancer, but to a host of other illnesses including liver cancer, colorectal cancer, erectile dysfunction, age-related blindness, among many other virulent maladies. The study was released 50 years after the first Surgeon General report on smoking was released.
The study puts the “war on smoking” at a crossroads. On the one hand, the prevalence of smoking has been in sharp decline. In 1965, approximately 42 percent of the adult American population smoked. Now, only about 18 percent of adult Americans smoke. Indeed, in 2012, the first Gallop poll was conducted which found the great bulk of the American population is in favor of a smoking ban in public areas. In short: The prevalence of former smokers in the United States is greater than current smokers.
On the other side of the coin, cigarettes have become much more potent. Smokers have a greater risk for lung cancer than smokers in the 1960s. This largely has to do with changing the constituency of cigarettes, including the amount of nicotine rolled into each butt. Cigarette smoke has claimed roughly 20 million lives since the 1960s. Since the study has revealed smoking is deadlier than previously believed by being linked to a host of other fatal diseases, the death toll contributed to cigarettes has been raised by roughly 37,000.
What is interesting to note is that the Surgeon General reports a “causal link” between cigarette smoke and a host of other virulent maladies. Physicians tend to be hesitant towards using the word “cause” rather than “correlation.” The reason being, it is difficult to determine whether A is directly linked to B, whether A merely happens to coincide with B, or vice versa. As the ole’ saying goes, “correlation does not equal causation.” For example, some people who drink mango juice do not have cancer. Therefore, according to this line of reasoning, mango juice prevents cancer! Most people recognize the fault with this line of reasoning. However, when the U.S. Surgeon General reports that cigarette smoke has a causal link to a plethora of illnesses other than lung cancer, citizens are apt to take notice.
The Surgeon General reports a direct link between liver and colorectal cancer which, rather unsurprisingly, also happen to be the fourth most common cancer diagnosis in the United States. Remarkably, type 2 diabetes mellitus even managed to make it onto the list. However, medical officer of the American Diabetes Association Robert Ratner reports that the link between smoking and diabetes remains uncertain. At best, the study illustrates that smokers have an increased risk for diabetes. In addition, second-hand smoke was found to be linked to stroke. Approximately 2.5 million of the 20 million lives claimed by cigarette smoke were non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke. Furthermore, an estimated 100,000 babies have died prematurely died due to a variety of complications triggered by parental smoking.
The Federal Government hopes to reduce the amount of cigarette consumption to 12 percent of the population by 2020. However, since the study reports cigarette smoke is deadlier than previously believed, this goal is cast in a dubious light. Due to this, the report urges the government to seek alternative remedies to smoking, such as reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes.
By Nathan Cranford