Surgeon General's 2014 Report Links Tobacco to Other Diseases

1/17/2014, 12:37 p.m.
The surgeon general's latest report on tobacco use states that more than 5 million youth will die prematurely as adults as the result of smoking. (Courtesy of BET)

It's been known for decades that smoking can cause cancer. But a report released Friday by the U.S. surgeon general suggests that tobacco consumption may also be linked with a growing list of other diseases such as asthma and tuberculosis.

The report, "The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress," states that in the past 50 years, 20 million Americans have died from tobacco use. Unless policies proven to reduce tobacco are adopted by federal and state lawmakers, more than 5 million U.S. youth are poised to die prematurely as adults because of smoking, according to the report.

"The real emphasis needs to be put on the fact that we still have a major and tragic catastrophe going on," said acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, whose report suggests smoking could be linked to erectile dysfunction, diabetes, colorectal cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. In contrast, the landmark report issued Jan. 11, 1964 by Dr. Luther Terry only confirmed that smoking tobacco caused lung cancer.

Although about 18 percent of adults now smoke in comparison to the more than 42 percent who lit up in 1964, the report still stresses that smoking kills 480,000 Americans each year — many of whose deaths will be attributed to lung cancer.

"This report underscores the imperative to enact policies that prevent our youth from ever starting an addiction to tobacco," said Harold P. Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association. "Tragically, women are now as likely as men to die from lung cancer and [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease]. More must be done to help all smokers quit, to reduce all deadly tobacco caused diseases."

Lushniak, is urging new resolve to end smoking by increasing use of proven tobacco-control measures.

"It's not just the federal lead on this anymore," Lushniak told Reuters. "To get this done, we have to go to industry. We have to go to healthcare providers and remind them that this problem is not yet solved."