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Health Risks From Smoking More Widespread, Report Says

The Nation

May 28, 2004|James Gerstenzang | Times Staff Writer

"We need to focus particular attention on these disadvantaged populations," providing access to treatment, health insurance and local clinics providing help in breaking the smoking habit, she said.

Her views were supported by Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, who called for coverage for smoking cessation programs under Medicare and Medicaid, the government healthcare programs for the elderly and the poor. He also encouraged Congress to raise the federal cigarette tax by $2 and use a portion of the proceeds for quit-smoking initiatives.

"What is most disturbing about this report is the wide gulf between the devastation caused by smoking and what our country is doing to reduce it," Myers said in a statement.

In California, the average price of a pack of cigarettes is more than $4, according to his organization.

Although some of the previous 27 surgeon general's reports on smoking have raised the likelihood, or certainty, that smoking increased the risk of a variety of diseases, the new document goes further, stating in case after case that "the evidence is sufficient to infer a causal relationship" between smoking and a specific condition.

One by one, the reports have added to the breadth of concerns about smoking, which they count as the greatest avoidable cause of death in the United States. The executive summary of Thursday's report said smoking causes about 440,000 deaths a year and costs approximately $157 billion in annual health-related economic losses.

The summary of the 900-page report stated: "An increasingly disturbing picture of widespread organ damage in active smokers is emerging, likely reflecting the systemic distribution of tobacco smoke components and their high level of toxicity.

"This new information should be an impetus for even more vigorous programs to reduce and prevent smoking."

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