The United States 50 years ago seems like a society filled with completely different people. The culture back then was very different than today, from the cars we drove and jargon used to ideas held on public health. 50 years ago, people didn’t know the true harm tobacco has on smokers and the people around them. So what led to this change?
In 1964, the Surgeon General released a report on smoking and health. This report was the first of its kind and detailed the dangers of tobacco and linked smoking to lung cancer and heart disease. Although it took a lot of time and work to change the social norm of the smoking culture of the past, this report was a hot button issue and still is today.
A new Surgeon General’s Report, The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress, was just released 2 weeks ago. This new report finds that although there has been progress, 20 million Americans have died due to tobacco in the past 50 years. And 2.5 million of these deaths were among nonsmokers who were exposed to secondhand smoke. Another shocking fact found in the report is that tobacco is even deadlier and more addictive than it was 50 years ago because of the increased amount of nicotine put into tobacco products today. However, on the bright side, the national smoking rate is at 18%, more than half of what it was 50 years ago (42%). In light of this new report, it’s important to remember the toll tobacco has on our friends and family and try to make changes to keep reducing the smoking rate!
You can help make these changes starting in your own community. Locally in California, more than 36,000 Californians die every year due to tobacco and 30,000 California youth begin smoking each year. A great way to see what your community is doing to tackle this issue is to check out the American Lung Association in California’s 12th annual State of Tobacco Control Report – California Local Grades which grades every city and county throughout the state on their tobacco control policies.
All 482 cities and 58 counties in California are put to the test in this report. In 2013, 40 municipalities took action to better protect their residents from the dangers of tobacco by passing local policies! Although, 60% of California received F grades, the number of F grades keeps decreasing every year.
Each municipality is graded on 3 major policy areas: Smokefree Outdoor Air, Smokefree Housing and Reducing Sales of Tobacco Products. These grades are then combined to get an Overall Tobacco Control Grade. We work with all the American Lung Association in California offices and with LLA’s to ensure accuracy of our grades. By creating these grades, we hope to increase public knowledge about whether your elected officials, both locally and statewide, have enough policies to ensure the protection of residents from tobacco. Look through your community’s grades to see how well you are being protected.
Though we have made progress, there is still a lot to be done. Therefore, the American Lung Association is renewing its commitment to eliminate tobacco caused death and disease.