The District of Columbia Department of Behavioral Health is calling attention to its smoking prevention and cessation program following the 2014 Report from the Surgeon General that projects 5.6 million Americans younger than 18 years of age will die prematurely from smoking-related illness if smoking persists at the current rate among young adults. In the District of Columbia, that represents about 7,000 children alive today who will die prematurely because of smoking.
The report, “The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress”, highlights significant progress in tobacco control and prevention since the first Surgeon General’s report, but concludes that smoking remains the single largest cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. Further, smokers today have a greater risk of developing lung cancer than did smokers in 1964. Nearly a half million Americans die prematurely from smoking each year. The estimated economic costs attributable to smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke continue to increase and now approach $300 billion annually, with direct medical costs of at least $130 billion and productivity losses of more than $150 billion a year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking kills about 720 adults over 35 years old each year in the District of Columbia and costs 243 million in medical care and lost productivity.
“The Surgeon General’s report gives us stark figures and a clear warning of the tragic consequences of smoking,” said Stephen Baron, Director of the Department of Behavioral Health. “It also underscores that deaths and related illnesses from smoking are preventable.”
The Report finds that tobacco control efforts have averted at least 8 million early deaths since 1965, but that tobacco control interventions proven to be effective continue to be underutilized.
Quitting smoking is hard. Studies show about 70% of all smokers want to quit. The Department of Behavioral Health offers support that can increase the chances of quitting and staying quit. Call 1-800-Quit Now (1-800-784-8669) or Spanish-speaking callers can call (202) 333-4488. Certified cessation counselors are available 24 hours a day to talk about a plan to quit or how to help a family member or friend quit. Nicotine replacement patches or lozenges are available to callers 18 years or older. Since last October, 456 residents have registered to receive counseling and nicotine replacement therapy and nearly 2,500 calls were received for information and services.
Smoking rates among adults and teens are less than half what they were in 1964; however, 42 million American adults and about 3 million middle and high school students continue to smoke.
In the District, about 12.5% of all high school students smoke compared to 20.4% of adults.
The Department of Behavioral Health holds anti-tobacco educational activities and supports initiatives for smoke-free public housing and nursing homes. The Department also sponsors smoking prevention and cessation efforts targeted at youth and works with youth-led groups, including the Tobacco-Free Coalition and Teens Who Don’t. To publicize smoking cessation benefits, the Department sponsored a Great American Smoke Out event last November.
Research shows that the body begins to heal itself as soon as the last cigarette is smoked. After twenty minutes, the heart rate and blood pressure drop. In two weeks, the lungs begin to work better. After five years, the risk of stroke goes down, and after 15 years of not smoking, the risk of heart disease is that of a nonsmoker.
For more information about available smoking prevention and cessation, go to www.dbh.dc.gov, and click on Addiction Prevention Recovery Administration.
The Surgeon General’s report comes 50 years after the first Surgeon General’s Report which concluded that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer in men. Since that 1964 report, evidence has linked smoking to diseases of nearly all the body’s organs, and scientific evidence shows 20 million premature deaths can be attributed to cigarette smoking. While most of the smoking-related deaths have been adults with a history of smoking, about 2.5 million are nonsmokers who died from exposure to secondhand smoke. The 2014 report establishes more new links, finding that cigarette smoking causes diabetes, colorectal cancer and liver cancer. Secondhand smoke exposure is now known to cause strokes in nonsmokers .
The Report also finds that although cigarette smoking has declined significantly since l964, very large disparities in tobacco use remain across groups defined by race, ethnicity, educational level, and socioeconomic status and across regions of the country. In addition, the disease risks from smoking by women have risen over the last 50 years and, for the first time, women are as likely to die as men from many diseases caused by smoking.
To read the full report, “The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress, go to www.SurgeonGeneral.gov. The District of Columbia smoking related data is available at www.cdc.gov/tobacco/statesystem.