Fifty years after the U.S. surgeon general first linked cigarette smoking to deadly diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease, his successors continue to add to the list of health problems associated with tobacco use. Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak released a report Friday chronicling cigarettes' harms:
Other cancers. Smoking is a cause of liver cancer and colorectal cancer, the fourth-most-diagnosed form of the disease.
Chronic illnesses. Smoking is a cause of Type 2 diabetes, age-related macular degeneration that can blind older adults, erectile dysfunction and rheumatoid arthritis. It can impair the immune system, worsen asthma and cause cleft lips and palates in fetuses. And exposure to secondhand smoke can cause strokes.
Greater risk. Smokers today have a much higher risk of developing lung cancer than did smokers in the 1960s, probably because of changes in the design and composition of cigarettes.
Then versus now. Cigarette smoking has continued to decline among adults, from 42 percent in 1965 to 18 percent in 2012. Still, since 1964, more than 20 million Americans have died prematurely from smoking, and tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
New emphasis. Last week, a collection of public health and antitobacco groups collectively called for a "new national commitment" to eliminating tobacco-related deaths. Among their suggestions: tobacco tax increases, broader laws for smoke-free workplaces, strict tobacco oversight from the Food and Drug Administration, and aggressive advertising campaigns to help smokers quit and keep nonsmokers from lighting up.