Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: Let’s Create a Smokefree Generation

Let’s Create a Smokefree Generation

Project Coordinator

The countdown to World No Tobacco Day is well underway. This year the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on governments to increase taxes on tobacco to levels that reduce consumption and individuals and organizations to urge their governments to raise tobacco taxes. And it's time for the United States to fall in line and act. 

Has a lot been done to curb smoking since 1960s? Yes. We all know smoking kills. We know smoking causes all kinds of cancers, stroke, heart attacks, heart disease, and the list goes on and on.  We know this. Is it enough? No. The fact remains that cigarettes continue to kill an estimated 443,000 Americans every year, either from smoking itself or exposure to secondhand smoke. An additional 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by cigarettes, and the economic burden of tobacco use is staggering.  Tobacco use costs the country $96 billion dollars a year in direct medical costs and an additional $97 billion a year from lost productivity, for a grand total of $193 billion dollars lost--lost from something that is entirely preventable.

Not enough is being done in the United States to end tobacco use, and it's time for that to change. To be fair, some cities and states have embraced the initiative. Maryland supported a $1 cigarette tax increase, Maui, HI, New Jersey and   Delaware passed smoking bans for their parks and beaches, and Philadelphia went smokefree in its city parks. These smokefree laws are successfully helping to curb health issues and save cities and states money.  For example, smokefree laws have been documented to prevent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) hospitalizations in areas of Kentucky where local laws prohibit smoking in public spaces.  These are good momentum starters. But, for a developed country, we are way behind.

Sri Lanka is pushing for 80 percent coverage with graphic warning labels on their cigarette packs. Russia is pushing to raise the price of cigarettes; Singapore is starting look into both raising the age limit for smoking and implementing plain packaging; Melbourne, Australia, is currently considering a smoking ban that would make it "the world's first smoke free city." Bahrain is considering raising its tobacco tax by up to 300 percent. China is about to launch a month-long campaign to promote a nationwide ban on smoking in public places. Pakistan is planning to increase the excise tax on cigarettes from 55 percent to between 65 and 70 percent. The British government is likely to impose a ban on branding for cigarette packs, introducing some of the toughest restrictions on tobacco sales in the world. The European Parliament approved regulations to permit visual and text health warnings that would cover 65 percent of the front and back of cigarette packages and 50 percent of their sides. 

And the United States?

Moves to require graphic warnings on cigarette packages have been stymied in federal courts. Similar fights are occurring with proposals to raise cigarette taxes, despite the fact that raising the price of tobacco has proven to be one of the most effective strategies for preventing and controlling tobacco use. So, how should we get the momentum going? It's time for states to get more involved. State and local governments should start enacting laws with the idea of creating a smokefree generation. The Australian island state of Tasmania is already trying to do this in its efforts to ban young people from smoking cigarettes by preventing their sale to anyone born after the year 2000. In effect, when people born after 2000 reach the age of 18, the ban would go into effect, and thereafter, the legal age to purchase cigarettes would be raised each subsequent year so that this generation would never be able to legally buy cigarettes.

It is time. The current status quo of 18.1 percent still smoking in the U.S. is no longer good enough. Smokefree generations need to start becoming realities instead of fantasies.  As Richard A. Daynard, a professor of law at Northeastern University and president of its Public Health Advocacy Institute, points out "some antismoking advocates who support existing approaches…fear that pushing for an '"end game"--a smoking rate below 10 percent--is too ambitious. But then, banning smoking in restaurants, workplaces and bars was once seen as crazy, too.  Sometimes, a little crazy goes a long way."

Will you support efforts toward a smokefree generation?

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