Two American experts have hailed the signing of a bill granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over tobacco.
The granting has come by U.S. President Barack Obama as a historic move, which offers a ray of hope that tobacco use in the country will be eliminated by 2047.
Writing in an article in the American Journal of Public Health, Michael Fiore and Timothy Baker, director and associate director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (UW-CTRI), respectively, chart milestones in beating tobacco addiction and map a battle plan to eradicate tobacco use in the next few decades.
They have analyzed data from the 1960s, when the first systemic tracking of smoking rates began, until the present.
"Numerous observers have claimed over time that tobacco use has plateaued and progress against its use has stalled. However, the remarkable decline in rates of tobacco use since the 1960s belies this claim and underscores the remarkable success of tobacco control efforts to date," the authors write.
They say that data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show adults smoking between 1965 and 2007 dropped by an average of one half of one percentage point per year, from 42 percent to the current rate of about 20 percent rate.
Even though this rate of decline has not occurred each year, the researchers say that the overall decrease has been quite steady.
They suggest that federal and state tobacco excise taxes be substantially increased, a national clean-indoor air law be made, nicotine be eliminated from tobacco products, mass media campaigns be launched to counter the tide of tobacco industry ads and sponsorships, a ban be imposed on tobacco ads and sponsorship, and evidence-based counseling and medication be made available for every smoker who wants to quit.
According to them, these efforts may help accelerate the rate of decline in tobacco use in the country over the next 50 years.
The researchers also recommend protecting young people, particularly those 17 and younger, from starting to smoke.
Research shows that a major genetic risk for lifelong nicotine dependence can be suppressed if young people avoid daily smoking prior to age 17.
"The progress made in reducing tobacco use over the last 50 years should in no way temper our commitment to further reductions. Nor should that progress be interpreted to mean tobacco use is less toxic or that tobacco companies are now on the ropes. But, if appropriate steps are taken, a tobacco-free nation can be achieved within a few decades," Fiore says.
The researcher duo has also written that the past success has resulted from tobacco tax increases, enactment of clean-indoor air laws, tobacco industry advertising restrictions, tobacco product-labeling requirements, policies that restrict youth access to tobacco products, mass media campaigns, increased availability and effectiveness of treatments to help current smokers quit.
In their article, Baker and Fiore called for FDA regulation of tobacco products to spur progress.
The bill was signed into law on June 22, along with provisions that would further restrict tobacco industry targeting of kids, strengthen health warnings on tobacco packaging, require disclosure about what's in tobacco products and ban terms like "light" and "mild" to describe cigarettes.