It’s been 50 years since the Surgeon General released the first report on smoking and health in the United States. In that time more than 20 million Americans have died because of smoking. In fact, smoking remains the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and premature death in the United States.
With each report, the list of health risks connected to tobacco use and exposure continues to grow, especially for women. In the 2014 report from the Surgeon General, The Health Consequences of Smoking — 50 Years of Progress, we learned that women — for the first time ever — are as likely to die as men from diseases caused by smoking.
In some cases, the risks are even higher for women than they are for men. The number of women dying from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is now higher than men. It also appears women are more likely to develop severe COPD at younger ages than men. Because COPD makes it difficult to breathe, it can be debilitating. It can even affect a woman’s ability to do routine activities like walking and taking care of herself.
Not all the news is bad, though. Fewer Americans smoke today than 50 years ago. In fact, only 18 percent of U.S. adults currently smoke, compared with 42 percent in 1964. There are also more resources available to those who wish to quit smoking. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans must cover treatments that will help you quit smoking, and you will not have a copay or have to meet a deductible. You can also visit the Smokefree Women website to learn about the benefits of quitting, get tips to help you quit for good, and learn about smoking’s effects on pregnancy. For instance, babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy or who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than babies who are not exposed. Smoking during pregnancy may also cause birth defects and low birth weight.
As the Surgeon General’s report reminds us, this is a winnable fight. Quitting smoking is possible. If you smoke, please join the millions of Americans who have successfully quit. If they can do it, so can you. If you have a loved one who smokes, share this information with her! To learn more about the national vision for ending the smoking epidemic, visit SurgeonGeneral.gov to read highlights from the report.
– Dr. Pevoto