WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement by Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, President and CEO of Legacy on the U.S. Surgeon General's Report:
The public health community has long contended that cigarettes are the only products that can kill you when used as directed. Today, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin released A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease, confirming the toxic effect that tobacco products have on the 46 million Americans who are still smoking, as well as on anyone who tries cigarettes for the first time or is exposed to any amount of secondhand smoke. The comprehensive scientific report details how tobacco smoke immediately harms the human body, starting with cellular damage and tissue inflammation, which then weakens the immune system leading to disease and death.
The report found that cigarettes manufactured today are more addicting and attractive than ever. In these products, nicotine reaches the brain more efficiently and through multiple pathways, making it easier for kids to become addicted and harder for smokers to quit. According to the report, even just one cigarette can trigger a heart attack, and any exposure to tobacco smoke or the occasional cigarette can lead to dangerous health effects.
According to the report's analysis, the minute tobacco smoke enters the human body its 7,000 chemicals are quickly absorbed by the body's cells, altering DNA and leading to disease-causing changes. The continuing impact of cell damage from tobacco smoke increases the longer one smokes. Quitting smoking has an immediate effect on the body, lowering risk for disease and death. Today's report reiterates to smokers to quit as soon as possible – it is never too late.
This Surgeon General's Report states that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even low levels of exposure have an immediate effect on the body, leading to permanent health damage. The data today shows how secondhand smoke has been tied to SIDS and respiratory illness in children as well as lung cancer and heart attacks among adults.
"Every American deserves a healthier environment," said Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This report has significant implications for groups that are fighting for clean air policies to protect families.
Seventy percent of smokers want to quit, but many still lack the know-how, will power and, most importantly, the resources to quit and stay tobacco-free. General Benjamin, whose own mother died from lung cancer, emphasized how very important it is that smokers talk to their doctors or clinicians. According to General Benjamin, patients who are counseled to quit are 66 percent more likely to succeed. The nation's top doctor reiterated that we must encourage every smoker to stop smoking, and that physicians can play a key role in this process by counseling patients on the most effective ways to quit.
As further stated by General Benjamin, "Smoking remains a threat, and it is unacceptable and intolerable." Legacy applauds the nation's top health officials for aggressively working to reduce tobacco's impact. The depth of the science revealed in today's report, coupled with the comprehensive and collaborative role that the federal government is taking in the tobacco debate, will be another catalyst for bold action at every level to address the nation's smoking epidemic.
According to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, "We are stalled at a 20 percent adult smoking rate, and that is not a good place to be." As a public health community, we hope to move beyond that rate and achieve the goal set by the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, when he stated just a few months ago, that tobacco is a "winnable battle." Legacy looks forward to working with our partners to help Americans live longer, healthier lives.
Raymond S. Niaura, Ph.D., Associate Director for Science at the Schroeder Institute at Legacy®, is co-author of Chapter 4 of this Surgeon General's Report, entitled Nicotine Past and Present.
Legacy is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the national public health organization helps American live longer, healthier lives. Legacy develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns. The foundation's programs include truth®, a national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as having contributed to significant declines in youth smoking; EX®, an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; and research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use. The American Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. Visit http://www.legacyforhealth.org/.