As the global public health community observes World No Tobacco Day, the American Legacy Foundation again calls attention to the health epidemic that tobacco causes for our nation. Two important new studies released last week call attention to ways the nation can address the deadly toll of tobacco -- especially secondhand smoke, which is the focus of this year's World No Tobacco Day.
The Institute of Medicine, the group responsible for reporting on health issues to the U.S. Congress, issued a comprehensive blueprint detailing 42 actions the nation should take to address tobacco as the number-one preventable cause of death. In the United States alone tobacco kills more than 400,000 people every year, and secondhand smoke claims another 50,000 lives. By 2020, nearly 10 million people worldwide could lose their lives every year to tobacco consumption if current trends continue and if drastic measures are not taken immediately to abate it.
"If introduced today, cigarettes would not be allowed on the market because of the death and disease that they cause. When used as directed, they actually kill one half of lifelong users," Legacy President and CEO Cheryl Healton, Dr. PH, said. "On World No Tobacco Day -- and every other day -- we must act to address this health epidemic. Instead of accepting smoking as part of our culture, we must actively work to educate youth about the way cigarettes are marketed to them and help smokers who want to quit."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the first study to provide a state-by-state analysis of smoking prevalence in U.S. homes. The study found that in 2003, smoking is prohibited in nearly three out of four U.S. households. This marks an increase from the 43 percent of homes that restricted smoking just ten years prior.
The Surgeon General reported in his July 2006 study that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and both reports focus on the important health benefits of smoke-free initiatives, whether they are in homes, cars or public spaces. Legacy's Don't Pass Gas public service announcement campaign raises awareness about the dangers of secondhand smoke and asks smokers to "take it outside" to prevent exposure to family and friends -- especially children, who are so vulnerable to the negative effects of environmental tobacco smoke.
The American Legacy Foundation(R) is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the foundation develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns.
The foundation's programs include truth(R), a national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as contributing to significant declines in youth smoking; EXSM, an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use; and a nationally-renowned program of outreach to priority populations. The American Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry.