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Surgeon General's Report On Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: So If We Know What To Do, Why Aren't We Doing It?

by Dr. Len March 09, 2012

I had the opportunity yesterday to attend the event marking the release of the 31st Surgeon General's report on tobacco and smoking.

 

What struck me about this report-which focuses on tobacco use in youth and young adults--is that although we have made progress in the tobacco wars, we presently seem to be in a holding action. We are not making advances in reducing the incidence of smoking and use of smokeless tobacco products, although we are all well aware of their risks and harms.

 

The fundamental question remains: Although we have a pretty good idea of what works, when are we going to start reinvigorating our efforts to reduce the use of these killer products among our children?

 

As I have said many times before, tobacco is the one product readily and legally available in the United States that when used as intended will kill half the people who use it. 443,000 deaths a year, 1200 a day, $96 billion each year in direct medical costs and $97 billion in lost productivity. Those, my friends, are big numbers. And they are not just numbers: they are people. They are the people we love, the people we know, the people we work with. More...

Cancer Facts and Figures 2012: One Million Cancer Deaths Averted, But We Still Have A Long Way To Go

by Dr. Len January 04, 2012

Welcome to the New Year!

 

And as has been the case for many years in the past, the American Cancer Society takes the New Year opportunity of providing the nation with the latest estimates of cancer incidence and deaths, along with a measure of how well we are doing in reducing the burden of cancer in the United States.

 

The data is contained in two reports released today by the Society: the consumer oriented Cancer Facts and Figures 2012 and the more scientifically directed Cancer Statistics 2012. Both are available online. 

 

It is never "good news" to realize that the burden of cancer in this country is immense. And with the country gaining in population and age, the extent of that burden is inevitably going to increase. But this year's report does contain some welcome information, namely that cancer death rates have declined in men and women of every racial/ethnic group over the past 10 years, with the sole (and unfortunate) exception of American Indians/Alaska Natives. In addition, the Society now estimates that a bit more than one million cancer deaths (1,024,400 to be exact) have been avoided since 1991-1992.

 

That one million number is actually more significant than it seems. Many of the people in that 1 million never heard the words "you have cancer." Maybe they had a colon polyp removed before it became cancerous, maybe they stopped-or never started-smoking. Maybe they had a pap smear that found a pre-cancerous lesion. And then there are the patients who have benefitted from the advances in cancer treatment that have occurred over the past number of decades.

 

But the 1 million number also means that these are people who have hopefully remained active and engaged in life, loved by their families, productive in their communities. In economic terms, the return on investment on avoiding those one million deaths may likely be incalculable. In human terms, it is an amazing accomplishment. More...

Today Is A Good Day To Commit To Stop Smoking As We Celebrate The 36th Annual Great American Smokeout

by Dr. Len November 17, 2011

It's that time of year again.

 

Thanksgiving is just a week away (go turkey!!!), which means today is the American Cancer Society's annual Great American Smokeout (or GASO for short). In fact, 2011 is the 36th year for the Smokeout, which makes it a longstanding (and successful) tradition in our world.

 

What, you may ask, is GASO?

 

Well, GASO is a day to focus on the opportunity--if you are a smoker or know someone who is--to make a commitment to quit, or perhaps a day to choose as your "quit day" if you were alert enough to plan ahead. It is a day when you can take a step that could be one of the most important ones you can make, a pledge to do something which could be the single greatest thing you can do for your health, a day to reduce your risk of death from cancer and many other diseases related to smoking.

 

Quitting isn't easy. We all know that. Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are among the most addicting substances we can take into our bodies. And the sad reality is that if you decide to smoke, the chances are about 1 in 2 that smoking will have a role in causing your death. And to make matters even worse, that death is likely to be premature.

 

In fact, every year in this country, 443,000 people die from tobacco related illnesses. More...

A Declaration for the World, A Noble Mission For All

by Dr. Len September 20, 2011

There are few times in life when one gets to watch history being made. Today is one of those times.

 

I am in New York with a number of colleagues from the American Cancer Society and other committed organizations to observe a UN High Level Meeting which will--at long last--put non-communicable diseases on the international agenda. The impact of the decisions made here over the next two days can indeed change the face of global health forever. More...

Cancer Facts and Figures 2011: Poverty is a Carcinogen. Does Anyone Care?

by Dr. Len June 17, 2011

"Poverty is a carcinogen."

 

Those were the words of Dr. Samuel Broder when he was director of the National Cancer Institute in 1989.  

 

As amply documented in the annual "Cancer Facts and Figures 2011" released today by the American Cancer Society, cancer shows that poverty remains one of the most potent a carcinogen-rivaling tobacco and obesity-as we have ever seen.

 

We have heard lots and lots about how cell phones and Styrofoam cause cancer.  But do you hear anyone talking about the huge impact of poverty and limited education on cancer?

 

If you don't hear anything about a true carcinogen that statistics show causes 37% of the deaths from cancer in people between the ages of 27 and 64, then maybe you have the answer to a very important question: If we are serious about reducing the burden and suffering from cancer, why aren't we paying attention to those most in need? More...

How Many Lives and $ Could Be Saved If Your State Had Smoke-free Air?

by Dr. Len June 15, 2011

$10.28

 

That is a number I want you to think about.  And as you think about it, consider the implications for your health, your wallet and your state budget.

 

$10.28 is the amount of money it costs for the health and economic consequences of smoking a pack of cigarettes.  Yes, that's right: our economy and our health care gets dinged $10.28 for each pack that someone smokes, every day, 365 days a year, for however many years.  That's a lot of money.

 

Who pays that cost?

 

We all pay those costs in salaries and wages (the money that is lost in productivity, health insurance premiums, etc) that we would otherwise have for investment in business or improved wages for workers.  We all pay those costs in higher taxes it costs our state and federal governments to provide health care and other benefits for caring for those unfortunate folks who suffer from the debilitating effects of smoking.

 

More important than the money, however, is how much we "pay" in personal "costs" when someone we love or someone we know dies as a result of tobacco, a product that when used as intended will kill half of its users.

 

All of this and more is contained in a report issued this afternoon by the American Cancer Society's advocacy affiliate American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).More...

Is It Really OK To "Book Profits" By Investing In Tobacco Companies?

by Dr. Len May 23, 2011

Sometimes you just have to connect the dots to understand the world around us.  And sometimes the picture those dots paint isn't one that is particularly nice. 

 

I am beyond amazed that otherwise normal, clear thinking people can turn a blind eye to the harms of tobacco when it is their turn to make some extra money.

 

The case in point is the attitude that Wall Street has about investing in tobacco companies as a good way to make a buck.  In fact, tobacco stocks are right up there on the investment list when it comes to "widows and orphans" stocks. Those are the stocks you want to be invested in because they are safe, generally do well in recessionary times, and actually pay a dividend that is real money.

 

What has set me off this time is a brief commentary in a business journal called Barron's, where a columnist I read regularly (and respect) made some comments this week about the outstanding profitability of a tobacco company that is known for their commitment to menthol cigarettes. More...

Filed Under:

Lung Cancer | Media | Prevention | Tobacco

Philip Morris International's Merchant Of Death Strikes Again

by Dr. Len May 12, 2011

Appalling.

 

I used that word once before back in January 2008 when I wrote a blog about the (then) new CEO of Philip Morris International (PMI).  His name is Louis Camilleri, and he was the subject of an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal talking about the spin-off of PMI from Philip Morris US so they could more easily sell their toxic products worldwide.

 

I called him the next generation of a merchant of death, seeming to relish the opportunity to make big money marketing deadly cigarettes to then fertile markets around the globe.

 

Well, Mr. Camilleri has surfaced again-this time making the outrageous comment that "tobacco is not that hard to quit."

 

You have to be kidding.  Cigarettes are incredibly addictive, and heavy smokers have a very difficult time quitting.  Our statistics in this country show that for the most part our ability nationwide to reduce the number of chronic smokers has hit a roadblock. More...

Filed Under:

Lung Cancer | Media | Prevention | Tobacco

Smoke Free Laws Are One Of The Greatest Public Health Successes In This Country

by Dr. Len April 22, 2011

There's a lot we know about what could be done to improve the health of the public.  At the same time, there is a lot we can't seem to get done when it comes to improving the health of the public.

 

Against that somewhat pessimistic background, the report that came out today about the success of indoor smoking laws in the United States over the past decade serves as an outstanding example of what can be done when people make up their minds that they are going to do something positive to improve their personal health and the health of their country.

 

In fact, I will go so far as to say that the long-term impact over decades of what has been accomplished to reduce smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke in this country over the past 10 years rivals some of the great public health accomplishments in this country.  Yes, my friends, it is that significant. More...

Tobacco Tourism Comes Of Age In Northeast US

by Dr. Len March 22, 2011

Know what a "dilly" is?  The dictionary describes a "dilly" as something that is remarkable or extraordinary, as in size or quality. 

 

The headline I came across the other day from the Associated Press story is in fact a dilly of a story.  It has some of my colleagues here at the American Cancer Society and our affiliated advocacy organization American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network more than a bit concerned: "NH, RI, NJ Buck Trend, Propose Cigarette Tax Cut."

 

Hard to believe, but after years of making progress in the fight against big tobacco and helping people to kick the habit or prevent young people from taking up smoking in the first place, now come proposals that would take us backwards, putting more people at risk for their lives all in the name of economic recovery.

 

Folks, in my humble opinion, this is one screwed-up way for states to make money. More...

About Dr. Len

Dr. Len

J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, MACP - Dr. Lichtenfeld is Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the national office of the American Cancer Society.

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