Tobacco Laws Have Saved 8 Million Lives

Tobacco laws, health, u.s., saved lives

Tobacco laws have been in place since the Beatles invaded America, Ed Sullivan was on every Sunday night and Walter Cronkite announced on CBS news that the US Surgeon General, Luther L. Terry, M.D., released the first report of the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health.  The Beatles are grandfathers, Ed Sullivan’s theater is now occupied by David Letterman and you can’t smoke — almost — anywhere now, and tobacco laws have saved 8 million lives.

If you were alive in 1964 when the tobacco laws were first put in place, then you remember how it used to be for smokers.  Light one up over coffee after dinner.  Enjoy a beer at the pub with a friend while you both smoke and even have one on that airliner flying across the country.  Times have changed.

A study has found that over the past 50 years, tobacco laws in the US have saved smokers from premature deaths and extended their lives an average of 20 years.  The study, published in the Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA), celebrates the 50th birthday of the first report by the surgeon general who sought to alert the public about the dangers of smoking, resulting in tobacco laws which have saved 8 million lives.

Since that time, when the controversial first study was released, the government and consumer groups have managed to increase education about smoking’s dangers, increase cigarette taxes, enact hundreds of smoke-free air laws, conduct thousands of media campaigns and severely limit marketing and sales of tobacco products.

Despite progress, the report’s authors say, “smoking remains a significant public health problem.”

For someone motivated in stopping smoking there are numerous pills, patches and potions to help.  Regardless of the specific route you take to kick the tobacco habit, here are five tips that can help:

1.  List all the things you like and don’t like about smoking.  If you’re serious enough, ask your family and friends to help you with the list.  When you personally feel that the negatives outweigh the positives, you’ll be ready to quit.

2.  Make another list explaining why quitting won’t be a piece of cake.  Be honest and complete, even if the list gets lengthy.  Beside each entry, list an option for overcoming that challenge.  For example, if one of your items is “Stopping won’t be easy,” beside it, list a counterpoint such as, “There are nicotine replace products available.”

3.  Pick a kickoff date and write that date on your calendar and tell your family.

4.  List all of your reasons for quitting on an index card and keep it with you.  Whenever you feel like reaching for a smoke, reach for – and read – the card instead.

5.  As your kickoff date gets closer, stop buying cartons of cigarettes and start buying a pack or two at a time.  Eventually you’ll see that when you want a smoke, you won’t have one at your fingertips.  Making it more inconvenient to light up reduces the chances that you will.

A half century after the first announcement about the dangers of smoking, which greatly changed the tobacco laws, nearly 20 percent of US adults continue to smoke and hundreds of thousands die each year from complications linked to tobacco use.

Maybe tobacco laws will save another 8 million lives in the next 50 years.

By Jerry Nelson


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