Smoking causes immediate damage

Cigarette smoke causes immediate damage to a person’s lungs and their DNA even in small amounts, including from second-hand smoke, US federal officials said on Thursday in a new report.


Published: Fri 10 Dec 2010, 10:21 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 9:52 AM

Taxes, bans and treatment must all be pursued to bring smoking rates down, US Surgeon-General Dr. Regina Benjamin said. “The chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your lungs quickly every time you inhale causing damage immediately,” she said in a statement.

“Inhaling even the smallest amount of tobacco smoke can also damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer,” she said.

The report said tobacco companies deliberately designed cigarettes and other tobacco products to be addictive and that they released new products that are portrayed as safer but that are in fact just as dangerous and addictive.

Benjamin said a third of people who ever try cigarettes become daily smokers and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said curbing smoking would remain a priority for President Barack Obama’s administration.

Sebelius listed measures taken by Obama since he took office two years ago, including “legislation to regulate tobacco products, investing in local tobacco control efforts and expanding access to insurance coverage for tobacco cessation.”

The Food and Drug Administration has banned flavored cigarettes and begun investigating menthol cigarettes. In November it issued rules requiring graphic images on cigarette packages.

There have been setbacks. Earlier this week an appeals court ruled that the FDA can only regulate “e-cigarettes”—or battery-powered products that allow users to inhale nicotine vapor—as tobacco products and not as drugs, and thus cannot block their import.

The report notes that studies have shown cigarettes kill 443,000 people every year in the United States—one in every five people who die—from cancer, heart disease, lung disease and other causes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says efforts to reduce smoking have stalled in recent years. Between 1998 and 2008, the number of smokers fell by 3.5 percent, from 24.1 percent to 20.6 percent.

“The economic burden of cigarette use includes more than $193 billion annually in health care costs and loss of productivity,” Sebelius said.

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