Backs Surgeon General's Plan to Reduce
DES MOINES-- Attorney General Tom Miller applauded Surgeon General David Satcher's report today on "Reducing Tobacco Use" - which said it is possible to cut the U.S. smoking rate in half within a decade.
"The Surgeon General's message is compelling," Miller said. "It is very difficult, but now we have proven means to reduce the terrible damage of nicotine addiction. We can make great progress, but only if the country implements wide-ranging anti-smoking efforts on many levels."
The Surgeon General's report is the first ever to provide an in-depth analysis of the effectiveness of various methods of reducing tobacco use, including educational, clinical, regulatory, economic and social approaches. Iowa launched a comprehensive tobacco prevention and control program on July 1, using about $9 million or one-sixth of the payments by the tobacco industry to Iowa this year. The funds will be used to leverage other federal and private moneys for the effort.
"The Surgeon General's pioneering report indicates that we are on the right track here in Iowa in several respects," Miller said, "but I think it also raises a caution flag. We need to keep reviewing the mix to be sure Iowa has the most effective program possible."
"The report suggests we are on the right track with school and community programs, enforcement efforts and counter-advertising," Miller said. "But we may need to review the mix so we support more adult cessation programs, as the Surgeon General recommends."
For example, Miller noted that the Surgeon General reported that a combination of behavioral counseling and pharmacological treatment can boost quit-smoking success up to ten-fold. "This suggests we need to study whether Iowa's comprehensive plan should provide more resources to help adults and youths quit," Miller said. "A vast majority of smokers want to quit, but only a little more than two percent succeed each year. I think we can do some things to improve those odds."
The primary direct adult cessation element in Iowa's current tobacco program is aimed at helping pregnant mothers quit smoking, which is extraordinarily helpful to the health of new babies. "Counter-advertising" and other elements of the Iowa program may "spill over" to adults and help them quit or choose not to smoke, but a more concerted effort to help adults who want to quit should be considered, too, Miller said.
He noted that the Surgeon General also reported evidence that enacting stronger clean indoor air regulations can contribute to changing social norms, decreasing tobacco consumption among smokers, and increasing smoking cessation.
The Surgeon General's report was presented today in Chicago at the 11th World Conference on Tobacco or Health. The report said more than 400,000 adults die from tobacco-related disease each year in the U.S., and more than one million young people become regular smokers.
Miller said 5,000 Iowans die each year from tobacco-related disease, and 12,000 Iowa kids take up smoking - 1,000 per month.
"We simply must remember that tobacco use is the leading cause of PREVENTABLE illness and death," Miller said. "The Surgeon General has given us an excellent map. As the report says, we don't have all the answers, but we know more than enough to make huge strides toward preventing this tragedy."
Miller added that anti-smoking programs should only improve as more and more states serve as "laboratories" to test various approaches. "I hope Iowa will serve as a model for creating successful means to avoid the terrible costs and suffering caused by tobacco."
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