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8 M lives saved since US alarm on smoking

NEW YORK (Reuters) – More than half of American men and over a third of women were smokers on January 11, 1964, when Dr. Luther Terry delivered the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health outlining the links between tobacco use, lung cancer, and death.

Fifty years later, smoking rates have been cut by about half, and a new study estimates that 8 million Americans have been saved from premature smoking-related deaths.

“You look back in history to 1964, and in reality the world was a very different place when it came to tobacco use and smoking,” said Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, the acting U.S. Surgeon General.

A collection of reports released online on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) highlights how public-health efforts, from cigarette taxes to advertising limits, have helped curtail smoking rates. The reports also identify new trouble spots, including communities whose members have not been able to quit in significant numbers.

Lushniak believes the next step should be a resolve to introduce an endgame within the next 50 years. That concept will be part of an upcoming Surgeon General’s report on January 16 celebrating the anniversary of the original, he said.

“The next stage really needs to be a resolution to move ahead to this smoke-free generation concept,” Lushniak said.

One paper estimates that about 17.7 million deaths from 1964 to 2012 were related to smoking. Without any of the tobacco control measures introduced in that period, an additional 8 million people would have died, according to Theodore Holford of the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut, and colleagues.