Surgeon general, AACR leaders urge increased investment in research to tackle tobacco epidemic
Stemming the global tide of tobacco-related death and suffering and promoting public health will require an intensification of tobacco control efforts and further research to better understand initiation, addiction and the countless harmful effects of tobacco, emphasized U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, along with other research experts, at a March 1 Capitol Hill briefing hosted by the AACR.
U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin
Benjamin, speaking to congressional aides and representatives from the health research and advocacy communities, praised the public health efforts that have led to the remarkable decline in smoking rates over the past four decades, but noted that this decline has stalled in recent years. About one in five American adults still smoke and every day, nearly 4,000 youths try their first cigarette. She cited the ongoing need for more scientific discovery in tobacco to drive the development of more effective policies and treatments.
Benjamin also pointed to successful anti-smoking policies at the state level as models for the rest of the nation. California's 40-year-long tobacco control program, for instance, has resulted in lung cancer rates that are nearly 25 percent lower than other states.
The surgeon general’s presentation followed the release of her comprehensive report, How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease, released in late 2010 that details the scientific evidence on how smoking causes cancer and numerous other diseases.
The briefing, which served as the first of several AACR-sponsored policy events planned for this year, was moderated by Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the AACR.
Roy S. Herbst, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the AACR’s Task Force on Tobacco and Cancer, and chief of medical oncology at Yale University, offered his perspective as an oncologist and clinical researcher, addressed the AACR’s role in tobacco control and tobacco-related cancer research, and highlighted findings from an April 2010 AACR policy statement on tobacco and cancer. Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., chair of neurology at the University of Miami and president of the American Heart Association (AHA), which provided generous support for the event, shared his insights on tobacco and cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Both Herbst and Sacco expressed great concern when questioned about the impact proposed budgetary cuts would have on public health and tobacco-control efforts. They explained that investment in the National Institutes of Health and other health agencies needs to be increased, not cut, in order to advance tobacco-related research and to attract new investigators to the field.
Drs. Margaret Foti, Roy Herbst, Regina Benjamin, and Ralph Sacco
Dr. Benjamin, speaking to congressional aides and representatives from the health research and advocacy communities
The AACR will host a second tobacco-related briefing on Wednesday, March 16, when Lawrence R. Deyton, M.D., M.S.P.H., director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, will provide an update on the implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Dr. Deyton will be joined by other esteemed scientists who will discuss the research needs related to the Tobacco Control Act.
Read more from the March edition of the AACR Cancer Policy Monitor: