Smoking has killed 10 times the number of Americans who have died in all of the nation’s wars combined, wrote Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a report released Friday.
Each day, 2,100 young adults who are occasional smokers make it a daily habit. The new surgeon general report says 5.6 million children under the age of 18 who are alive today will die prematurely unless U.S. smoking rates drop.
Some 443,000 Americans die from smoking-related causes each year. The U.S. has more than halved smoking rates since the landmark report from Surgeon General Luther Terry was released 50 years ago, the first report to connect smoking with lung cancer. Today, smoking is tied to throat cancer and kidney and heart disease, and the 2014 report adds diabetes, colorectal and liver cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, erectile dysfunction, and age-related macular degeneration to the growing list of smoking-related diseases.
“Smokers today have a greater risk of developing lung cancer than they did when the first surgeon general’s report was released in 1964, even though they smoke fewer cigarettes,” said Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak in a press release. “How cigarettes are made and the chemicals they contain have changed over the years, and some of those changes may be a factor in higher lung-cancer risks.”
Public-health measures enacted in the years following the historic surgeon general report have saved more than 8 million lives. The U.S. has steadily increased the tobacco taxes at the state and federal level to disincentivize new smokers and slow the number of cigarettes consumed. The Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance plans to cover smoking-cessation services and increases funding for public-education initiatives. Anti-tobacco groups continue to pursue greater regulation of the tobacco industry by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and smoke-free health laws have reduced exposure to second-hand smoke nationwide.
But the U.S. spends more than $289 billion annually in medical care and lost productivity as a result of smoking.
The report says the tobacco industry “started and sustained this epidemic using aggressive marketing strategies to deliberately mislead the public about the harms of smoking,” a finding which has been upheld in a federal court. Industry-wide changes to cigarette design to enhance the delivery of tobacco have heightened the risk of cancer, the report adds.
The full report is available here.
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The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday overturned North Carolina's 2013 voter ID law, saying it was passed with “discriminatory intent." The decision sends the case back to the district judge who initially dismissed challenges to the law. "The ruling prohibits North Carolina from requiring photo identification from voters in future elections, including the November 2016 general election, restores a week of early voting and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and ensures that same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting will remain in effect."
An oil pipeline almost as long as the much-debated Keystone XL has won final approval to transport crude from North Dakota to Illinois, traveling through South Dakota and Iowa along the way. "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the final blessing to the Dakota Access pipeline on Tuesday. Developers now have the last set of permits they need to build through the small portion of federal land the line crosses, which includes major waterways like the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers. The so-called Bakken pipeline goes through mostly state and private land."
The U.S. economy grew at an anemic 1.2% in the second quarter, "well below the 2.6% growth economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast." Consumer spending was "robust," but it was offset by "cautious" business investment. "Since the recession ended seven years ago, the expansion has failed to achieve the breakout growth seen in past recoveries. "The average annual growth rate during the current business cycle, 2.1%, remains the weakest of any expansion since at least 1949."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the majority leader in waiting, not only thinks his party will take the Senate this fall, but that it's on the cusp of an era of "electoral dominance." He told Politico: “We’re going to have a Democratic generation. [President Barack Obama] helped create it. But it’s just where America’s moving demographically, ideologically and in every way. We’ll have a mandate to get something done.”
"Vice President Joe Biden will appear in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that will mention the backlog of untested rape kits in many cities, as well as efforts to end violence against women—an issue close to Biden, who authored the Violence Against Women Act in 1994." He'll be in New York to tape the episode today.