American Association for Cancer Research

Press Releases: 2010

New Surgeon General Report on Smoking and Disease Caps Successful Year of Federal Anti-Tobacco Action, AACR Says


December 9, 2010

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Association for Cancer Research commends the U.S. Office of the Surgeon General for its continued focus on tobacco, one of most pressing public health issues of our time. The Surgeon General today released a new report, How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease, that details the scientific evidence on how smoking causes cancer and numerous other diseases.


The report states that no level of tobacco smoke exposure is safe and describes the biological mechanisms behind smoking’s damaging effects, including how the chemicals and toxicants in smoke inflame the lining of the lungs and damage DNA within cells. The report also describes how tobacco smoke weakens the body’s ability to fight cancer by decreasing the effectiveness of some chemotherapy drugs and promoting tumor growth.

“This Surgeon General’s report is an eye-opener because it comprehensively compiles the scientific evidence that spells out how tobacco smoke attacks our bodies to cause disease,” said Roy Herbst, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the AACR Task Force on Tobacco and Cancer, and professor of medicine and section chief of thoracic medical oncology in the department of thoracic/head and neck medical oncology, division of cancer medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “Understanding the biological reasons for tobacco’s profoundly negative impact is an important component of developing effective, evidence-based, anti-tobacco efforts. Such knowledge explains, for example, why it is so critical to protect people from secondhand smoke.”

This new report, the Surgeon General’s 30th one on tobacco, comes at the end of a year that has seen significant anti-tobacco efforts at the federal level. The AACR applauds these collective efforts and urges continued federal leadership.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which became law in June 2009, provided the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and advertising of tobacco products. Since then, the FDA has worked swiftly to implement the law, including banning the sale of candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes as well as the use of deceptive terms such as “light,” “low” and “mild.” Most recently, the FDA proposed new bolder health warnings with graphic images for cigarette packaging and advertisements.

Through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Congress also enacted other important measures aimed at reducing tobacco use, including the expansion of health plan coverage for proven smoking cessation interventions and the creation of a prevention trust fund that began funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs in fiscal year 2010.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has also shown leadership this year with the release of a comprehensive, agency-wide, tobacco control plan last month that included a strategy to accelerate research to expand the science base and monitor progress in reducing tobacco use and attendant disease.

“Tobacco is responsible for nearly 30 percent of all cancer deaths, taking the lives of 169,000 Americans every year,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the AACR. “The AACR is committed to working with Congress, the Obama administration and the global community to leverage resources and make progress in reducing the toll of death and disease due to tobacco use. While momentous strides have been taken to date, we need to continue to be vigilant in our collective efforts to reduce tobacco use.”

The AACR Task Force on Tobacco and Cancer published a comprehensive policy statement on tobacco and cancer in Cancer Research last April, which called on all stakeholders to engage in a renewed and concerted effort to combat the global tobacco epidemic. Among other tobacco-related efforts planned for the coming year, the task force will be submitting comments to the FDA on the proposed cigarette warning labels in January. The task force is comprised of experts from across the spectrum of research on tobacco use and tobacco-related cancers, including David Sidransky, M.D., who served as senior scientific editor of the Surgeon General’s new report.

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The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 33,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowships and career development awards. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 18,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. Including Cancer Discovery, the AACR publishes seven major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. AACR journals represented 20 percent of the market share of total citations in 2009. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists.

Media Contact:
Rachael Cullins
(202) 898-0668
Rachael.Cullins@aacr.org