This year’s Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, coincides with the release of the 2013 National Youth Tobacco Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Great American Smokeout is an annual event that we at CDC, especially those of us in the Office on Smoking and Health, always look forward to.
Reducing tobacco use is one of CDC Director Dr Tom Frieden’s “Winnable Battles.” Despite continued progress, tobacco companies’ aggressive and evolving marketing efforts pose a continuing challenge to the tobacco control community.
Using legalistic terms to affix the “cigar” label to something that is really more of a cigarette and using tax loopholes to charge less for these products are examples of industry tactics to promote tobacco use, especially among impressionable and cost-conscious young people. Our data show that 90% of smokers tried their first cigarette before the age of 18. Moreover, most adolescent smokers wrongly believe they can quit anytime. Sadly, two-thirds of them never do and as adults face the tragic prospects of sickness, disability, disfigurement, and early death from smoking-related disease.
If current trends continue, about one BILLION people worldwide will die in the 21st century because of tobacco use. And, as physicians who treats tobacco-caused cancer, COPD, or heart disease know, these deaths are horrible for the patients, their families, and the caregivers who walk with them those final miles.
I encourage you to log on to www.cdc.gov/tips and see the moving stories of former smokers who have experienced the ravages of smoking-related disease. Sadly, 3 of these outspoken heroes—Terri, Nathan, and Bill—have passed away since their appearance in our Tips From Former Smokers campaign.
If you use tobacco or have influence over someone who does, please join CDC and the American Cancer Society in supporting the 2014 Great American Smokeout. The life you may help save could be yours or that of someone you love.
Tim McAfee, MD, MPH
Director, Office on Smoking and Health
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion