Surgeon General Priority: Tobacco

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and worldwide. According to the CDC, more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking.  Worldwide, tobacco use causes more than 7 million deaths per year. If the pattern of smoking all over the globe doesn’t change, more than 8 million people a year will die from diseases related to tobacco use by 2030.

For 50 years, the Office of the Surgeon General has been reporting on the warning of the health hazards of smoking. The 32nd Surgeon General's report on smoking and health, published in 2014, highlights half a century of progress in tobacco control and prevention in the U.S.

As cigarette smoking among those under 18 has fallen, the use of other nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, has taken a drastic leap. All of this is creating a new generation of Americans who are at risk of nicotine addiction.

—2016 Surgeon General Report

Over the past five decades, scientists, researchers and policy makers have determined what steps must be taken if we truly want to make the next generation tobacco-free and end one of our nation’s most tragic battles—one that has killed ten times the number of Americans who died in all of our nation’s wars combined.

In 2016, the Office of the Surgeon General released E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. The report finds that while nicotine is a highly addictive drug at any age, youth and young adults are uniquely vulnerable to the long-term consequences of exposing the brain to nicotine. The report also finds that secondhand aerosol exhaled into the air by e-cigarette users can expose others to potentially harmful chemicals. In 2018 the Surgeon General’s Advisory on E-Cigarette Use Among Youth noted that e-cigarette use increased 78% among high school students during the past year, and 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students currently use e-cigarettes.

The Surgeon General's examination of the health consequences of smoking and tobacco highlights nationwide efforts to promote a tobacco-free lifestyle and reduce the chances of developing heart disease, cancer, lung disease, stroke, periodontal disease, and a host of other health conditions. This work also underscores how ending the tobacco epidemic is essential to increasing the life expectancy and quality of life of all Americans.

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