‘Enough Is Enough’

To The Reader’s Forum:

On January 17, 2014 the Surgeon General (SG) released his report on tobacco use in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of former SG Luther Terry’s initial report in 1964. SG Terry’s report was the first one to state that tobacco causes illness and death. The release of the 50th Anniversary report could be viewed via live webcast on the morning of January 17. The two main themes of the report were the health costs of tobacco use and the monetary costs.

Since the first SG report in 1964, 20 million people have died from smoking, 2.5 million of which were nonsmokers killed from secondhand smoke exposure. Many states such as New York have passed Clean Indoor Air Act (CIAA) to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure in public places such as restaurants and bars. Many organizations are now looking at smoke-free multi-unit housing as the next level of protection from smoking as 60% of air in an apartment comes from the apartments surrounding them.

The other shocking statistic from the webcast was that 5.6 million Americans younger than the age of 18 who are alive today, will die prematurely from a smoking related disease. Youth are influenced to start smoking by tobacco marketing in stores, and tobacco use/promotion in the media they consume. The tobacco industry spends $28.00 per person per year in the U.S. on tobacco marketing. Many countries have tackled this issue by banning the display of tobacco products in their stores. Canada and India also have laws that if there is smoking in a movie, then there is a health warning that pops up during use. Reality Check and Community Partnerships are presenting to organizations and municipalities on similar laws that they can now pass due to the Family Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

The second theme was the disproportions of money when dealing with tobacco use. States collect over $80 per person from tobacco taxes, yet they only spend $1.50 per person on prevention efforts. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that states spend $12.00 per person, per year on tobacco prevention; New York funds current tobacco control efforts at only 15.5% of CDC recommendations. The amount the tobacco industry spends on marketing monetarily and through resources far outweighs prevention services. Current research states that tobacco control efforts have saved 8 million lives since the initial SG’s report on tobacco in 1964. How many would be saved if they were funded properly? As current Surgeon General Boris Lushniak said after giving each statistic during the webcast, “Enough is enough.”

Jonathan Chaffee

Reality Check program coordinator