Tobacco-control efforts need to double down after CDC recognizes success in reducing cancer rates
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention touted the role that tobacco-control efforts have played in reducing cancer rates in the United States, an acknowledgement that underscores the opportunity to use the nation’s public health efforts to end the tobacco epidemic.
“Tobacco control efforts have contributed to lower rates of lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, as well as many other types of cancer,” CDC said in a statement accompanying its annual report to the nation on the status of cancer.
CDC previously estimated that 15.2 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 and older were current cigarette smokers from January-September of 2015, down from 16.8 percent in 2014. In 2005, 20.9 percent of U.S. adults smoked cigarettes.
Those numbers are encouraging, but they don’t tell the whole story.
“We have made tremendous progress, but there is more work to be done to make sure we don’t leave anybody behind,” said Robin Koval, CEO and President of Truth Initiative. “People with lower education levels, with lower income levels, minorities, the LGBT community, and people with mental illness, smoke at higher rates than the general population and experience higher rates of tobacco-related disease, including more than a dozen types of cancer linked to tobacco.”
In 2014, nearly 26.3 percent of Americans below the poverty line smoked, for example, compared with 15.2 percent of those at or above the poverty line.
“People on Medicaid are more than twice as likely to smoke as those on Medicare. Adults with a GED certificate smoke at eight times the rate of those with graduate degrees,” The Washington Post reported in November 2015.
The LGBT population smokes at higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts – in 2014, 23.9 percent of LGBT adults were current smokers compared to 16.6 percent of heterosexual adults. Despite smoking at similar rates to non-Hispanic whites, death rates from tobacco-related causes are higher in African American/Black populations.
“This new CDC report shows that tobacco-control efforts are one of the most effective, proven, and low-cost ways to make meaningful reductions in many forms of cancer. But there is more work to be done, especially when it comes to the most vulnerable among us.” Koval said.