On Monday, a report, The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress, was released by the Office of the Surgeon General. According to the report, 151,000 Indiana youth will become smokers and die prematurely. This is 9.5 percent of those age 17 and younger – almost one of every 10 Hoosier kids.
“For every smoker in our state that dies, two more Hoosiers under the age of 26 will start smoking,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “The report makes clear exactly what we can expect if we don’t act now to reduce our smoking rates and keep our kids from becoming addicted to tobacco.”
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 just the last 50 years, 20 million Americans have died because of smoking.
Since that 1964 report, evidence has linked smoking to diseases of nearly all the body’s organs. And today’s report establishes more new links, finding that cigarette smoking causes diabetes, colorectal cancer and liver cancer. Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in Indiana and the U.S.
Indiana continually ranks high among all states for smoking prevalence, with a smoking rate of 24 percent. That’s higher than the national average of 19.6 percent. Nearly 30 percent (29.6 percent) of Hoosier adults between the ages of 18 and 30 are current smokers, according to the report. Tobacco use kills more than 9,700 Hoosiers each year and costs the state over $2 billion in healthcare costs annually, including more than $487 million in Medicaid costs.
“This report calls on public health leaders to use all the tools we have to lower tobacco use rates,” said Miranda Spitznagle, director of Tobacco Prevention and Cessation at the Indiana State Department of Health. “We need partners in health care, business, education, faith – in all sectors of our society – to work at the state and local levels to help in building a tobacco-free generation.”
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 that secondhand smoke exposure is now known to cause strokes in non-smokers.
Smoking also negatively affects the health of babies. More than 100,000 babies have died in the U.S. during the last 50 years from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), complications from prematurity and low birth weight, and other problems resulting from parental smoking. In Indiana, 77 infants out of every 10,000 born die before their first birthday. Reducing Indiana’s infant mortality rate is a top priority of the Indiana State Department of Health.
“Quitting tobacco is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health and the health of your family,” said Dr. VanNess. “We know that smoking and secondhand smoke contribute to infant mortality, chronic disease and death. The Surgeon General’s Report is a wake-up call for Hoosiers that the time to quit is now.”
Those who stop smoking dramatically reduce their risk for heart attacks, asthma attacks, cancers and other diseases. The Indiana Tobacco Quitline is a free service to help Hoosiers quit tobacco for good. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to learn more.