2017-07-17 / Columns

THEIR VIEW

Tobacco use objectives can be met

A new report concludes the United States is failing to meet its goals in reducing tobacco use.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) bills itself as America’s oldest anti-tobacco organization. Founded in 1967, it is dedicated to a world with zero tobacco deaths. Its new report is titled, “Tobacco in America: Leaving the Vulnerable Behind.”

While national smoking prevalence has been driven down over the past two decades, the most vulnerable Americans bear a disproportionate share of the costs of tobacco, ASH states. Partly as a result, the United States ranks 43rd in the world in life expectancy, despite spending more than any other country per capita on health.

The new report compares U.S. progress toward implementing measures and reaching global health goals targeting tobacco use. Overall, tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in America, accounting for one in five deaths, and costs the U.S. economy more than $300 billion per year.

Nationally, about 15 percent of U.S. adults smoke, down from nearly 50 percent in the 1960s. However, progress has been far from uniform. ASH states that the following demographics smoke at much higher rates:

— Racial minorities like Native Americans.

— Marginalized groups like the LGBT community.

— Those who are less educated or living in poverty.

— Southern and Midwestern states.

The United States is falling behind other countries and is not fully implementing the measures and recommendations included in global health governance mechanisms, the ASH states. As a result, many Americans are not enjoying an equal level of protection experienced by citizens of other countries and will continue to die prematurely because of tobacco related diseases.

Many tobacco-control regulations have been hit or miss. Most regulation is done at the state or local level, and while some states have made it a priority, many have done little or nothing to reduce smoking, according to ASH.

ASH’s report urges the country, states, cities and counties to increase their efforts to fight tobacco.

Where the ASH and government, from the national level to local, should not be directing the fight is electronic cigarettes.

Lindsey Stroud, government relations coordinator at The Heartland Institute, notes that not only is the Food and Drug Administration shortsightedly battling e-cigarettes, county health departments around the country are joining in the battle to “demonize devices that can help improve public health.”

Stroud points out that research increasingly indicates e-cigarettes and vaping devices are far less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes. In 2015, Public Health England found e-cigarettes to be 95 percent safer than cigarettes. The Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians urges that it is in the “interest of public health” to promote the usage of electronic cigarettes as alternatives to smoking.

“It is of the utmost importance e-cigarettes be treated differently than traditional tobacco products,” Stroud said. Though they mimic the sensations of cigarettes, e-cigarettes are tobacco-harm-reduction tools that have proven to be successful in aiding millions of people in their quest to quit smoking.

A study by the Reason Foundation found between 6.1 million and 9.2 million people in the European Union have quit tobacco cigarettes through the use of electronic cigarettes.

Thus in measuring the U.S. commitment to ending tobacco use, the campaign in this country against e-cigarettes cannot be ignored as a factor in not meeting goals.

— The (Orangeburg) Times and Democrat

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