The Great American Smokeout 2023

The State of Lung Cancer

The Great American Smokeout 2023 is here. I celebrate it annually because I know people, including my dear grandmother Agatha Green, whose life was certainly shortened – she died at the age of 62 – because of those coffin nails.

“About 34 million American adults still smoke cigarettes, and smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world. Smoking causes an estimated 480,000 deaths every year, or about 1 in 5 deaths.

“While the rates of cigarette smoking have declined over the past several decades, from 42% in 1965 to 14% in 2019, the gains have been inconsistent. Some groups smoke more heavily or at higher rates and suffer disproportionately from smoking-related cancer and other diseases. These populations tend to be those who experience inequities in multiple areas of their lives, including those at lower socioeconomic levels, those without college degrees, American Indians/Alaska natives, African American/Black communities, LGBTQ communities, those in the military, those with behavioral health conditions, and others. “

The State of Lung Cancer report from the American Lung Association has some mixed news. While the disease remains the leading cause of cancer deaths among both women and men, over the past five years, the survival rate has increased by 22% nationally to 26.6%. 

  • Tobacco use is the leading risk factor for lung cancer, accounting for 80 to 90% of cases. While we have seen historic decreases in the national smoking rate, not all Americans or regions of the country have benefited equally. 
  • Secondhand smoke has also been shown to cause lung cancer. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. The “State of Lung Cancer” report highlights that making homes, workplaces, and public spaces smoke-free air zones, with no smoking allowed, can reduce the risk of exposure. This report’s sister, “State of Tobacco Control,” grades states for efforts to protect public spaces from secondhand smoke. 

I found this tidbit from the September 20, 2023, Los Angeles Times to be curious. “In 1998, California adopted a pricey cigarette ‘sin tax’ to discourage smoking. The money was used to create a network of agencies to help young families by funding preschools, pediatric health care, literacy projects, and, among the most successful services, maternal home care visits. But as the number of smokers dwindles, funding for the agencies is plummeting, putting them at risk.” Clearly, the value of people not smoking outweighs the funding loss of these programs.

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