Monday, July 12, 2010

All for One and One for All: The Importance of Keeping Tobacco a Key Part of Health Policy and Promotion

“…the prevalence of smoking in the United States hovers at 20%, more than 8 million people are sick or disabled as a result of tobacco use, and smoking kills 450,000 Americans annually.”

In a new Perspective on the New England Journal of Medicine's site (link), Stephen Schroeder, MD and Kenneth Warner, PhD  make the strong case for continuing our broad and largely effective efforts to curb tobacco use.  While high tech scans and exotic drugs may be more alluring and environmental contaminants scarier (previous post), tobacco remains a hugely important player in the nation’s health and deserves a great deal of attention.  It causes nearly a third of all cancers and is a major cause of heart disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. 

It’s easy to think that the battle against big tobacco has been won, but with rates of smoking leveling off in recent years, and the funding of some anti-tobacco programs being cut, the potential benefits of keeping up the fight remain enormous and shouldn’t be abandoned for other efforts with less clear potential.

With health care reform becoming law, prevention seems to be gaining more traction than it’s had in recent years.   We know that healthy diet, regular exercise, weight control, and not smoking can prevent the majority of chronic diseases.  None of these can be left behind as we move forward on all fronts.

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