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New U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Tobacco’s Harmful Effects Shows that Progress Is Possible, but More Work Remains

By Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Health Team

Fifty years ago the U.S. Surgeon General released a landmark report that linked smoking to cancer and fundamentally changed public attitudes around tobacco. Since then, considerable progress has been made in the United States – smoking rates have been cut in half since the 1964 report was released. Strong policies have banned smoking from many public spaces and prohibit tobacco advertising in many media outlets. And taxes on cigarettes have been increased federally by many states and localities.

To commemorate the report’s anniversary, the U.S. Surgeon General released an updated report on the tobacco epidemic. The new study notes declines in U.S. smoking prevalence, and that’s good news, but the report also indicates that much more work is still needed to end the deadly tobacco epidemic.

It found that smoking still remains the single largest cause of preventable disease and death in the United States and identifies eleven new dangerous health effects of smoking – bringing the total to nearly 50 cancers and chronic diseases demonstrating that more needs to be done to combat the tobacco epidemic.

The burdens associated with tobacco are even more evident globally. Worldwide, more than 100 million have died – and because the tobacco industry aggressively targets low and middle-income countries, the number still climbs. To reverse the epidemic, Bloomberg Philanthropies has committed $600 million to fighting the tobacco epidemic in low and middle-income countries.

Bloomberg Philanthropies and our partners promote effective tobacco control policies worldwide. Our focus is supporting adoption and implementation of tobacco control measures in the World Health Organization’s MPOWER package, which includes effective comprehensive smoke-free public place laws, bans on tobacco advertising and sponsorship, increased tobacco taxes, graphic warnings on tobacco packages and hard-hitting mass media campaigns.

While we’ve seen progress with nearly 75 countries instituting at least one MPOWER policy, there are still 120 countries – with over 70% of the world’s population – without even one effective policy to curb tobacco use.

We have the tools to reduce the burden of tobacco, and millions of lives will be saved if these proven approaches are applied worldwide.