Despite the high priority for tobacco control new CDC data show the decline in smoking has stalled (see story). As we have note previously, smoking is the leading cause of cancer. It causes more than 30% of all cancers in the United States and an increasing cause on developing countries as smoking rates rise throughout Asia and South America.
While media draws attention to possible new environmental causes of cancer (see NYT story), we can all be distracted from the enormous burden of smoking on society. In addition to the burden among those who smoke (half die due to their smoking), CDC notes that in the US 88 million non smokers are exposed to second hand tobacco smoke, have measureable toxins, and thus are at risk of numerous health effects of tobacco smoke. Smoking is a major cause of heart disease, stroke, and many other chronic health considerations. These cost society huge amounts in health insurance, taxes to support health care, and lost productivity.
Many highly effective strategies to counter the health effects of smoking are thoroughly documented in the literature and regularly summarized in reports form the Surgeon General. Moving from knowledge to action often stalls, however, in State House and local government settings where industry is highly effectively lobbying against regulations that may lower the rates of smoking. Proven effective strategies include increasing access to smoking cessation services, policy (clean indoor air, limiting advertising, and increasing taxation on cigarette sales), and workplace wellness programs. These all play a role in our response to counter the addictive habit of smoking and the ensuing huge health consequences.