50 years since landmark smoking health report

The 50th anniversary of the landmark US report linking tobacco to health risks will be marked with the launch of a progress report at the White House in Washington DC.


The report marked the start of anti-tobacco policy development worldwide, including in Australia, but the National Heart Foundation cautions that we still have a way to go.


The Heart Foundation's tobacco control spokesperson, Maurice Swanson, said that it was worrying that 50 years on people are still not fully aware of the risks to their heart health.


“The original Surgeon General’s Report highlighted the dire health risks associated with smoking, including the link to heart disease. But we know that many people are still not aware of the cardiovascular damage caused by smoking.


“More than 45,000 Australians die from cardiovascular disease in Australia each year, this includes heart attacks, strokes, peripheral arterial disease. Twenty-seven percent – or more than 12,000 of those deaths – are caused by smoking


“If you smoke, you are at least twice as likely to have a heart attack because smoking speeds up the clogging and narrowing of coronary arteries,” Mr Swanson said.


The good news for smokers is that ceasing smoking rapidly has a positive effect on their risk.


Within one year of quitting smoking your risk of a heart attack has greatly reduced, and within 2-6 years a person’s risk of developing coronary heart disease returns to a similar level as that of a non-smoker.


Mr Swanson observed that 2013 has also seen a number of positive advancements in Australia – “Highlights over the past year alone include plain packaging becoming compulsory, a decline in the rates of Indigenous people smoking, the introduction of a new tobacco tax, and new bans on smoking in outdoor areas.


Mr Swanson concluded, “However we still have a way to go - 15,000 deaths a year caused by smoking is still appalling.”.


The 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report: The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress, launched at the White House in Washington DC covers historical and trend information on tobacco use over last 50 years, new findings on health effects of smoking and outlines how the continuing tobacco use epidemic can be ended.


The report is available at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/initiatives/tobacco/


17 January 2014.