Fifty years ago this month, the U.S. surgeon general published a landmark, groundbreaking report that scientifically linked smoking to cancer and other illnesses. With the help of American Cancer Society research, the report became a launching pad in the fight against tobacco and spurred the progress we've made in curbing tobacco consumption and reducing related diseases, like cancer.
Fifty years ago, 42 percent of the population smoked and there were no restrictions on where one could do so, even on airplanes. Today, the smoking rate has dropped to 19 percent and, thanks to comprehensive “smoke-free” laws, almost two-thirds of the population is protected from deadly toxins in secondhand smoke. But a lot of work remains.
There are still 44 million smokers — and every day, more than 3,000 kids pick up their first cigarette. Last year, 20,000 deaths in Pennsylvania were connected to tobacco.
The tobacco industry continues to develop new products to addict more people and keep current customers from quitting, as well as to fight proven tobacco-control measures, such as “smoke-free” laws and taxes that can protect our kids from a lifetime of addiction.
Let's use this anniversary to turn up the heat on Big Tobacco and finish the fight we started 50 years ago against this deadly, addictive product.
Let's start by increasing the Pennsylvania cigarette tax by $1, which would increase revenue by $356.43 million in the first year and save $3.11 billion in health-care costs in the long run.
Fewer people using tobacco means fewer people dying from diseases like cancer. Join me in finishing the fight.
The writer, a patient navigation services coordinator at UPMC's Hillman Cancer Center, is an American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Pittsburgh volunteer.