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The past, present, and future of tobacco

Jan. 17, 2014
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the inaugural Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. In honor of the occasion, Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS, discusses some of the current literature on tobacco use and resources available to help curb smoking.
January 11, 1964, marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark 1964 surgeon general’s report on Smoking and Health.(1) According to experts, it brings about a time for national recognition, resolve, and reaffirmation.(2) One of the authors, Dr. Steven Schroeder, is a personal friend and colleague, former CEO of Robert Wood Johnson, and Director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center (SCLC).(3) Visit the SCLC for tools, webinars, and other important aids to help us with the fight against tobacco. I have been on the Advisory Board for the last ten years.
According to Schroeder and Koh, it is important to recognize the persons who courageously completed the report under powerful analysis while guarding against potential industry interference. It is also important to honor the astonishing scientific advances in tobacco control in the years since the release of the report, leading to many lives saved. This anniversary must reaffirm the important determination to end the tobacco epidemic, and doing so should not take another 50 years.(2) As we mark the 50th Anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, there was a special issue of the Public Health Newswire on January 10, 2014. The special edition focused on tobacco use nationally and internationally.(4)

They concentrated on Be Tobacco Free, with emphasis on not starting to use tobacco, with the message targeted to for parents, teachers and coaches.(5) Most tobacco use begins in youth and young adulthood, with 88% of adult daily smokers having smoked their first cigarette before the age of 18. Roughly 18% of high school students smoke cigarettes. Nearly 10% use smokeless tobacco, and young people who use smokeless tobacco are more likely to become cigarette smokers as adults. By helping teens and young adults avoid using tobacco, we will help them live longer and healthier lives. We can make the next generation tobacco free.(5)

According to a USA Today editorial, if you want children to quit smoking, raise cigarette taxes.(6) They believe it works. The war on smoking is now over fifty years old, and has had a great deal of success. The country as a whole has made good progress. In 1964, four in ten adults in the U.S. smoked, today fewer than two in ten do.(6) The article points out that states like Kentucky, South Dakota and Alabama have not fared as well. We know that smoking is a cause of lung cancer and other diseases.

The New York Times had an article that presented the smoking prevalence in China.(7) After decades of decline, the prevalence of smoking in China has plateaued in recent years. Together with population growth, there are now more smokers in China than ever, according to a new study on global smoking prevalence published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).(8) This entire issue of JAMA is dedicated to the theme 50 Years of Tobacco Control. One of the articles is available online at no cost, Tobacco Control and the Reduction in Smoking-Related Premature Deaths in the United States, 1964-2012.

It is our responsibility to help patients, friends, and families to quit. There are numerous resources available, from state quit lines to the SCLC.(3) Let’s all do our part to make the next 50 years count!

References 1. 2. Schroeder SA and Koh HK. Tobacco Control 50 Years After the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report. JAMA. 2014;311(2):141-143. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.285243. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Holford TR, Meza R, Warner KE, et al. Tobacco Control and the Reduction in Smoking-Related Premature Deaths in the United States, 1964-2012. JAMA. 2014;311(2):164-171. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.285112.

Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS

To read previous RDH eVillage FOCUS articles by Maria Perno Goldie, click here.

To read more about tobacco use and dental hygiene, click here.