Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. The results of a 2009 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine making it even more clear. Based on the numbers and what experts already know, the numbers could very well be even higher. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps a close eye and reports their estimates of tobacco-related deaths, as well as views of the total economic cost. The one view that they pay considerably less attention to is the overall health burden it puts on the large part of the population that smokes.
The CDC's estimates in 2000 reported that the total number of medical conditions caused by smoking was 12.7 million – out of 8.6 million people. That means that some of those 8.6 million people had multiple diseases attributable to smoking.
Dr. Brian L. Rostron headed a new study in 2009 in the Center for Tobacco Products for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Maryland. Even though it had been 9 years, he and other experts believed the numbers in the 2000 study had been grossly underestimated.
They noticed that several known major tobacco-caused health conditions were not on the list. Dr. Roston voiced his concerns:
"Most of these conditions were chronic bronchitis and emphysema, often classified as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)," write the authors, "but these estimates and methods, to our knowledge, have not been subsequently updated or refined."
These are the factors from each of the data sources: 6.9 million people reported 10.9 million smoking-related health issues by the NHIS. The NHANES spirometry readings and self-reported data added the estimates for how many people had COPD. The number was adjusted to a higher number because many COPD cases aren't reported.
Using data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and population estimates the US Census Bureau in 2009, and they came to a conclusion.
With the combined data, approximately 14 million significant medical conditions in America are a direct result of smoking – and that was back in 2009. Even more startling, experts commented that this is a “generally conservative” estimate and that the number is most likely much higher.
Prevalent diseases, such as ovarian cancer, for instance, was not on the list of conditions in the 2009 study. However, it is a cancer that is known to be highly contributed to by smoking. The study was also unable to count for those people who had been exposed to second-hand smoke, which would have attributed to any diseases that are known to be caused by smoking.
Dr. Steven A. Schroeder of the University of California in San Francisco wrote an accompanying editorial for the 2009 study. Dr. Shroeder hopes that any more recent drops in the number of smoking-attributable diseases should not make it any less important to urge people to quick smoking. He stated:
“Does it make any difference that smoking is even riskier than previously assumed? Given that adult and youth prevalence rates are at modern lows, would not the current trends take care of the problem? Unfortunately, no. Although prevalence is declining, that decline is excruciatingly slow, and there are still more than 40 million smokers in the United States.”
It's a known fact that smoking is harmful to every cell in the body. It's generally not good for any living thing. Despite any new data, smoking cessation should always be one of the most important topics discussed between doctors and patients.
Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about COPD and smoking, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.
Page last updated: October 2, 2018
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and COPD. Last updated: April 23, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/copd.html