Magazine article USA TODAY

Surgeon General's Report: Happy 50th

Magazine article USA TODAY

Surgeon General's Report: Happy 50th

Article excerpt

Tobacco misconceptions prevail despite the dramatic drop in smoking rates since the release of the first Surgeon General's Report on smoking and health in January 1964. Specialists at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, dispel common myths connected to smoking.

"Since 1964, smoking rates have dropped by more than half as a result of successful education, legislative, and smoking cessation efforts," says Lewis Foxhall, vice president for health policy. "Still, lung cancer remains the No. 1 killer and the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S."

Myth: Almost no one smokes any more.

Fact: About 43,800,000 people still smoke. That is almost one in five people in the U.S.

"The current percentage of smokers is 19%. That's significantly lower than the 42% in 1965," Foxhall points out. "However, the actual number of people smoking today is close to the same." About 50,000,000 people smoked in 1965. "Because our population is much larger, it just seems like we have a lot fewer smokers."

Myth: E-cigarettes, cigars, and hookahs are safe alternatives.

Fact: All tobacco products have nicotine, and it is nicotine's highly addictive properties that make these products harmful.

"The tobacco industry comes up with these new products to recruit new, younger smokers, and they advertise them as less harmful than conventional cigarettes--but once a young person gets acquainted with nicotine, it's more likely he or she will try other tobacco products," asserts Alexander Prokhorov, director of the Tobacco Outreach Education Program. …

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