Healthcare Tips

Leaders Must Implement Policies To Reduce Tobacco Use

June 24, 2019

Today's release of, "How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking Attributable Disease" by U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin focuses attention on tobacco use and its devastating effects, including the major finding that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.

This 30th Surgeon General's Report should spur smokers to get help quitting and should provoke strong, decisive action by elected officials in Washington and across the country to implement policies proven to reduce tobacco use.

"National and state leaders must heed this report as a call to action," said American Lung Association President and CEO Charles D. Connor. "For years, the American Lung Association has decried the lack of political will on the part of elected officials in implementing proven policies that will reduce tobacco use across this nation. Policymakers who fail to take action now are failing the American people, especially its children."

How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease confirms that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke and that smoke causes damage immediately to the cardiovascular system. Even low levels of tobacco exposure lead to disease and death, including heart attack, stroke, weakened immune system, and asthma attacks.

One significant finding is that the duration of smoking is critical to how lung disease develops. This is important for 'casual' or 'social' smokers to understand that even though they may be smoking fewer cigarettes, the longer they smoke, the more they are at risk for disease. Completely quitting tobacco use is the only way to avoid the health risks.

"The findings in the Surgeon General's Report should be a wake-up call to all smokers that it is time to quit," said Norman H. Edelman, M.D., American Lung Association Chief Medical Officer. "Even an occasional cigarette is harmful to you and those around you, and can cause permanent lung damage and cancer. The sooner you quit, the more your body can begin to heal from the damage and disease caused by smoking."

At the center of this death and destruction is the tobacco industry. The report details how cigarettes are designed for addiction, and how the tobacco industry has made cigarettes more addictive over the years. Their efforts have made it easier for kids to get addicted and harder for smokers to quit.

Tobacco smoke also threatens families, the report says, by causing infertility, maternal birth complications, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and birth defects.

Tobacco kills 443,000 Americans each year - including 50,000 Americans from secondhand smoke - making it the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. The federal government made major advances in enacting and implementing important policy measures in 2010 to protect citizens from tobacco-caused illnesses. Most state governments, however, lagged far behind.

Policy changes at the federal and state levels - including fully funding comprehensive tobacco control and prevention programs; providing comprehensive tobacco cessation coverage to help all smokers quit; increasing the taxes of tobacco products; and requiring all workplaces to be smokefree - are proven and effective ways to reduce tobacco use. The new regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration over manufactured tobacco products is also a critical component.

The American Lung Association will be releasing its annual State of Tobacco Control report on January 20, which grades the strength of federal and state laws protecting Americans from tobacco-caused disease. The report and state grades will be available here.

The Lung Association has been successfully helping smokers quit for more than 30 years with our Freedom From Smoking program.

American Lung Association