Arkansas Department of Health Shares Latest from New Surgeon General’s Report

Surgeon General Projects 69,000 Arkansas Children Will Die Prematurely Unless Current Smoking Rates Drop

Smoking Now Linked to Rheumatoid Arthritis, Immune System Weakness

Little Rock — Approximately 5.6 million American children will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases unless the current smoking rates drop, according to a new Surgeon General’s Report. In Arkansas, this represents about 69,000 children alive today who ultimately will die prematurely because of smoking (State data available in Chapter 12, Appendix 12.2 of the Surgeon General’s Report).

“As the Surgeon General states, ‘Enough is Enough’. Today’s report gives us stark figures and a stern warning,” said Dr. Gary Wheeler, Medical Director for the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program at the Arkansas Department of Health.

“We must take immediate and bold action to protect the lives of everyone in Arkansas, and especially our children,” Wheeler added.

The report, The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress, calls the epidemic of cigarette smoking over the last century an enormous and avoidable public health tragedy. In just the last 50 years, 20 million Americans have died because of smoking. The new report updates estimates on the human and financial tolls of the cigarette smoking epidemic, finding that it kills close to half a million Americans a year and costs more than $289 billion a year in direct medical care and economic loss.

In Arkansas, smoking kills about 4,900 adults each year. Lost productivity for smoking in Arkansas accounts for more than $1.4 billion per year. Smoking is attributable to more than $812 million in medical costs per year in Arkansas. In 2004, this addiction cost the nation more than $96 billion per year in direct medical expenses as well as more than $97 billion annually in lost productivity. (State data available at www.cdc.gov/state_system and at http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/facts_issues/toll_us/arkansas June 2013).

Today’s report comes 50 years after the historic Surgeon General’s Report, which concluded that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer in men. Since the 1964 report, evidence has linked smoking to diseases of nearly all the body’s organs; today’s report establishes new links, finding that cigarette smoking causes diabetes, colorectal cancer and liver cancer.

The report also explains that smokers today have a greater risk of developing lung cancer than they did in 1964, even though they smoke fewer cigarettes. Changes in the design and composition of cigarettes may have contributed to this increase in risk. At least 70 of the chemicals in cigarette smoke are known carcinogens.

New findings in this report conclude that smoking causes rheumatoid arthritis and immune system weakness, increased risk for tuberculosis disease and death from TB, ectopic pregnancy and impaired fertility, cleft lip and cleft palates in babies of women who smoke during early pregnancy, erectile dysfunction in men, age-related macular degeneration, and increases the failure rate of cancer treatment. The report concludes secondhand smoke exposure is known to cause strokes in nonsmokers.

The report finds that tobacco control efforts have averted at least 8 million early deaths since 1965, but that these evidence-based tobacco control interventions continue to be underutilized.

Studies show about 70 percent of all smokers want to quit. They can get free help by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visiting www.smokefree.gov. To read the full report, The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress, go to www.SurgeonGeneral.gov.

For More Information Contact:
Office of Health Communications and Marketing
Kerry Krell, (501) 661-2150