American Association for Cancer Research

AACR Cancer Policy Monitor


                                                                                                  SEPTEMBER 2010

DECLINE IN U.S. TOBACCO RATES STALLED                                                

CDC director calls for renewed effort to reduce use of tobacco products

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For more than thirty years the U.S. boasted steady progress in curbing tobacco use, but that success has remained static for the fifth year in a row, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In a media briefing earlier this month, CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., Ph.D., noted that between 1965 and 2005, smoking rates dropped by 20 percent. Since 2005, however, the number of adult smokers in the U.S. has remained at around 21 percent (46.6 million people). Alarmingly, teen smoking rates have also hit a wall; one in five teens continues to smoke. 

Furthermore, Frieden said, despite an increasing number of restrictions on smoking in public places, four out of 10 adults are exposed to the dangers of secondhand cigarette smoke. Among children who live with a smoker, 98 percent have measurable levels of toxic chemicals from the cigarette smoke.

The new data prompted Frieden to issue a call to action to health care providers, state and community leaders, and other stakeholders, to step up efforts to reduce rates of smoking and secondhand smoke exposure.

He attributed the lack of progress against tobacco to deceptive maneuvering by the tobacco industry and failure by states and communities to support tobacco control programs.

“Last year, states took in about $25 billion from tobacco taxes in the master settlement agreement but spent only about $700 million, about 3 cents on every dollar,” he said. “By 2015, if all states funded tobacco control at CDC-recommended levels, about 15 cents on the dollar of tobacco revenues, there would be an estimated 5 million fewer smokers in this country.”

“While government efforts are often standing still or even moving backward, the tobacco industry is not standing still,” Frieden went on to say, pointing out that industry spent more than $12 billion on marketing and promotion in 2009. “The industry has gotten even better at side-stepping laws designed to get people to stop smoking. They ensure that every cigarette they sell delivers nicotine quickly and efficiently to keep people addicted.”

Given that tobacco use is causally associated with 15 different cancers, and accounts for 30 percent of all cancer deaths, the AACR has also called for more immediate action to stem the use of tobacco. In April 2010, the AACR released a policy statement, spearheaded by the Task Force on Tobacco and Cancer that detailed policy and research initiatives critical to overcoming the tobacco problem from the unique perspective of the AACR.


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