Smoking Kills

Smoking kills! This is not news to anyone. We are now over 50 years since the presentation of the first U.S. Surgeon General Report on Smoking and Health, a groundbreaking public health document that comprehensively distilled and presented the growing knowledge about the true health risks caused by tobacco.

Since then the evidence for the deadly effects of tobacco use has grown to a mountainous volume. Given this vast amount of data, it is incredible that new discoveries about how smoking kills are still being made.

A recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine provides new insight into many more adverse health effects and causes of death attributable to smoking. “Smoking and Mortality – Beyond Established Causes ” shows that disease such as intestinal ischemia, renal failure, hypertensive heart disease, prostate and breast cancer as well as death from infection are now shown to have a strong connection to smoking.[1]

Although these data are established from a U.S. population, every indication is that the same causes of death will soon stalk the rest of the world where the tobacco epidemic is still growing.

These numbers are sterile when looked at apart from the knowledge that they represent the premature and preventable deaths of real people… mothers and fathers, bread-winners and child-rearers, beloved children, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  How long will we have to continue collecting these grim statistics? We know what works to reduce the toll of tobacco (treatment, taxes, policies).

We cannot wait another 50 years– let’s end it!

About the Author: J. Taylor Hays, M.D., is Chair of Global Bridges and the Director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center.

[1] Carter BD, Abnet CC, Feskanich D, et al. Smoking and mortality—beyond established causes. NEJM 2015;372:631-640