40% of Smokers Not Told to Quit — Surgeon General

Henrietta Strickland
January 26, 2020

A new report from the USA surgeon general points out that smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States - and notes that stopping smoking is beneficial for all ages.

As the nation's doctor, he said the number "jumped" in his eyes.

Speaking to reporters, Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that while he had heard anecdotal accounts of e-cigarettes helping people quit, and there was some scientific literature supporting the idea, "this report is based on over 150 expert contributors, reviewing the totality of scientific data".

"If your loved one - or you - are a smoker and you've tried to quit or want to quit, there literally, literally has never been a better time to make a quit attempt", said Adams.

"Cancer care providers should do everything in their power to prevent people from becoming addicted to nicotine-regardless of how it is delivered", said the group's president, Howard "Skip" Burris III, M.D., in a statement about cigarette smoking and e-cigarettes. The 700-page report was released on Thursday.

Cessation medications approved by the FDA and behavioral counseling increase the likelihood of successfully quitting smoking, particularly when used in combination. "The tools that the CDC has put out are created to help empower more people to know what they can do to help folks quit".

A report on smoking cessation released today by United States Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams concludes that comprehensive, barrier-free health coverage of tobacco cessation therapies and services is one of the most effective ways to continue to drive down the smoking rate and save lives. But in any case, "e-cigarettes can't come at the expense of escalating rates of youth use of these products; youth use of any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe".

Disparities in key indicators of smoking cessation exist among subgroups within the US population - including quit attempts, receiving advice to quit from a health professional, and using cessation therapies. "But it's also important that we use the entire body of available science to guide our current recommendations".

Although some studies have found that e-cigarettes can help people quit tobacco, many of them focused on the use of specific products, so they can't be generalized to include all products on the market, Adams said.

"More than half of adults who smoke try to quit in any given year, but face several challenges", said Adams. "Many groups have been left behind by the progress we have made in recent decades". Smoking remains highest among LGBTQ adults, people with disabilities or reduced mobility, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and people with mental health and substance use disorders.

He added, "People want to stop". We know what works.

In general, cigarette smoking has been on the decline in the United States, reaching an all-time low of about 14% in 2018.

Approximately 34 million American adults smoke cigarettes, and 16 million live with smoking-related disease.

However, the evidence is inconclusive on whether e-cigarettes are effective in helping people quit, he added. Unfortunately, millions of Americans still smoke cigarettes. "Fully funded state tobacco control programs have been shown...[to] significantly decrease the number of people who are smoking and help prevent disease, death, disability, and skyrocketing healthcare costs", Adams said. But the good news is that, as the Surgeon General's report shows, we know more than ever about effective ways to help Americans quit smoking.

"This report highlights that quitting smoking is one of the most important things that people can do to improve their health", said Adams, who added that he lost both of his grandfathers to smoking-related conditions.

Smoking cessation reduces the risk of premature death and can add as much as a decade to life expectancy.

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