Surgeon general links smoking to many diseases

The Washington Post reports that, in “another round of evidence of tobacco’s potential to harm nearly every human organ,” Acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak found in a new report that “smoking is a cause of liver cancer and colorectal cancer,” as well as “type 2 diabetes mellitus, age-related macular degeneration, erectile dysfunction and rheumatoid arthritis.”
The Surgeon General also said smoking “can impair the immune system, worsen asthma and cause cleft lips and palates in fetuses,” while second-hand smoke exposure can cause strokes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association, along with other public health and anti-tobacco groups, last week “called for a ‘new national commitment’ to eliminating tobacco-related deaths.” They suggested increasing tobacco taxes, more smoke-free workplace laws, stricter FDA oversight of tobacco, “and aggressive advertising campaigns to help smokers quit and keep nonsmokers from lighting up.”

USA Today writes that the report found “smoking causes even more physical and financial damage than previously estimated,” including 480,000 Americans dying each year and the lost of almost $286 billion a year in medical costs and lost productivity due to premature deaths. This is also the first time the surgeon general concluded smoking is “causally linked” to diabetes, colorectal cancer, and liver cancer. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “Amazingly, smoking is even worse than we knew,” adding, “Even after 50 years, we’re still finding new ways that smoking maims and kills people.”

The New York Times reports that the finding that smoking caused these illnesses “does not mean that smoking causes all cases of the health problems and diseases listed in the report, but that some of the cases would not have happened without smoking.”

According to Dr. Judith Fradkin, a diabetes scientist at the National Institutes of Health, who was not involved in the report, “the evidence that smoking increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes had been gathering for about 20 years.”

Meanwhile, Neal Freedman, an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute, said that smoking has only “a fairly modest association” with liver and colorectal cancers, “but because so many people smoke, it’s still an important cause of these cancers.”

The AP reports Acting Surgeon General Lushniak said, “The real emphasis needs to be put on the fact that we still have a major and tragic catastrophe going on.”

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