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Tobacco Control Efforts Prevented Almost 800,000 Deaths in 25 Years, Study Concludes

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Tobacco control efforts, such as increases in cigarette taxes and bans on smoking in public places, prevented almost 800,000 deaths from lung cancer in the United States between 1975 and 2000, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle developed a computer model to estimate the impact of changes in smoking patterns that resulted from tobacco control efforts on deaths from lung cancer during those 25 years. In that time, almost 2.1 million lung cancer deaths occurred among men, and 1.05 million among women, HealthDay reports. The researchers estimate that more than 552,000 lung cancer deaths among men, and 243,000 among women, were avoided by tobacco-control efforts.

However, these numbers represent just 32 percent of lung cancer deaths that potentially could have been averted during the 25-year period if all smokers had quit, and no one else started after the 1964 U.S. Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of tobacco, the researchers say.

“This is the first attempt to quantify the impact of changes in smoking behaviors on lung cancer mortality based on detailed reconstruction of cigarette smoking histories,” lead author Suresh H. Moolgavkar, MD, PhD, said in a news release.

The results are published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Thomas Glynn of the American Cancer Society wrote in an editorial accompanying the study, “We should use all of the tools at our disposal to rein in the rogue tobacco industry, and assiduously apply all of our political, research, advocacy, public health, and clinical skills to end tobacco’s century of death, disease, and disability.”

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