Anti-Smoking Efforts Saved 8 Million Lives In The Last 50 Years

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Anti-tobacco efforts have saved 8 million lives in the last 50 years, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Since the landmark publication from U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry concluding that tobacco causes lung cancer in 1964, smoking has decreased 59 percent in US.

While 42 percent of American adults were smokers in 1964, that number dropped to 18 percent in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The average life expectancy for an American male has increased nearly eight years since 1964, and nearly five and half years for females.

Not smoking or quitting smoking, according to the study, leads to an average gain of two decades of life. The report says tobacco control has extended the lives of about 8 million Americans since 1964.

An estimated 800,000 lung cancer deaths have been avoided from 1975 to 2000 as a results of tobacco control, according to the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network.

Cancer has declined 40 percent in men's overall death rates since 1964.

"Tobacco control has been described, accurately, as one of the great public health successes of the 20th century," wrote CDC director Thomas Frieden in an accompanying editorial.

Smoking in public indoor spaces has been banned in 26 states and Washington, D.C.

“Despite the success of tobacco control efforts in reducing premature deaths in the United States, smoking remains a significant public health problem,” study authors wrote.

“Today, a half century after the surgeon general’s first pronouncement on the toll that smoking exacts from US society, nearly a fifth of US adults continue to smoke, and smoking continues to claim hundreds of thousands of lives annually,” the report said. “No other behavior comes close to contributing so heavily to the nation’s mortality burden. Tobacco control has been a great public health success story but requires continued efforts to eliminate tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.”

Sources: USA Today, ThinkProgress