Smoking Leads to Excessive Cancer Deaths, More Money for Tobacco Control Could Help

 Published: October 31, 2016

By: Fernanda Teixeira


Smoking Leads to Excessive Cancer Deaths

Respiratory therapists regularly advocate for increased spending on tobacco control measures. Unfortunately, tobacco control often gets the short end of the stick in state budgets.

New research from investigators at the American Cancer Society suggests that’s taking a toll. Based on large prospective U.S. studies and state-specific smoking prevalence data, they calculated the population-attributable fraction of cancer deaths due to cigarette smoking in the individual states using relative risks for 12 smoking-related cancers. Among the results —

  • The proportion of cancer deaths attributable to smoking among men ranged from a low of 21.8% in Utah to a high of 39.5% in Arkansas, but was at least 30% in every state except Utah.
  • The proportion among women ranged from 11.1% in Utah to 29% in Kentucky and was at least 20% in all states except Utah, California, and Hawaii.
  • In men, smoking explained nearly 40% of cancer deaths in the top five ranked states (Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky).
  • In women, smoking explained more than 26% of all cancer deaths in the top five ranked states (Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alaska, and Nevada).
  • Nine of the top ten ranked states for men and six of the top ten ranked states for women were located in the South.

The authors believe increased funding for tobacco control initiatives, the development of innovative strategies to reduce tobacco use, and a strengthening of tobacco control policies and programs could put a dent in these statistics.

“Tobacco control has been credited with preventing approximately eight million premature deaths in the United States over the past five decades, equivalent to 157 million years of life saved,” they write. “Our data show that there remains the potential to avert many more premature deaths in light of suboptimal funding for tobacco control programs, not only in the South, but in all states.”

The study was published online by JAMA Internal Medicine on Oct. 24.

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