The Worst Public Health Failure In U.S. History
Los Angeles Times, January 13, 2004
Where There's Smoke, There's Money From Big Tobacco
A 40-year effort fails to lower lung cancers or the number of addicted.
Commentaryby Alan Blum, Eric Solberg and Howard Wolinsky
Forty years ago this month, the U.S. surgeon general delivered a bombshell. Cigarettes, he said, represented "a health hazard of sufficient importance … to warrant remedial action." He issued a call to arms against a modern plague, and in doing so, launched the contemporary war on smoking. Too bad that the war against smoking has been a complete flop, the worst public health failure in U.S. history.
Lung cancer, despite its 14% decline in California over the last decade, is as deadly as ever nationally and has even surpassed breast cancer as the leading cancer killer among women. Though the proportion of people who smoke has declined in the United States, the number of those who smoke — 46.2 million people — has remained virtually the same. Smoking claims more than 400,000 lives a year in this country. And today, Marlboro smokers are younger than ever. Even the recent four-year decline in smoking among adolescents has yet to offset the dramatic increase in smoking among this age group over the last decade.