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FOR RELEASE: May 27, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

For Every Smoking Death, 20 More Suffer
Serious Illness from Smoking

In conjunction with today’s national release of the 2004 Surgeon General’s Report: The Health Consequences of Smoking, state health officials are highlighting state-specific data on the health impacts of smoking in Oklahoma.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking has caused 12 million deaths in the United States and more than 170,000 deaths in Oklahoma since the first Surgeon General’s Report was released in 1964.

“The health effects of smoking in Oklahoma are even more widespread than previously thought,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher. “Today’s report indicates that for every person who dies from a smoking-caused disease, there are 20 more people suffering with at least one serious illness from smoking,” he said. “Tobacco use remains Oklahoma’s leading cause of preventable death, killing an estimated 5,700 Oklahomans each year. This new finding indicates that at any given point in time, well over 100,000 Oklahomans are having to cope on an daily basis with a major illness caused by smoking.”

The 2004 Surgeon General’s Report includes the following national findings:

  • Among smokers, chronic lung diseases account for 73% of smoking attributable conditions.
  • Among adults, most smoking-related deaths each year are from lung cancer (124,813), ischemic heart disease (81,976) and chronic airway obstruction (64,735).
  • Excluding adult deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke, adult males and females lose an average of 13.2 and 14.5 years of life respectively, because they smoke.

State-specific Oklahoma data indicate the following:

  • Oklahoma ranks 3rd highest in the nation for heart disease death rates.
  • Oklahoma ranks 8th highest in the nation for lung cancer death rates and 16th highest in the nation for overall cancer death rates.
  • Oklahoma ranks 10th highest in that nation for stroke death rates.
  • Oklahoma ranks 8th highest in the nation for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) death rates (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis).

“The Surgeon General’s Report also found that the list of diseases conclusively linked with smoking has grown even longer,” said Crutcher. “Specific diseases caused by tobacco include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and peripheral vascular disease. Tobacco also causes cancer of the lungs, larynx, esophagus, mouth, and bladder and increases risk of cancer of the cervix, pancreas and kidneys. Smoking during pregnancy nearly triples the risk of low birth weight babies, increases the risk of miscarriages, pre-term birth, and stillbirth and accounts for at least 10 percent of all infant deaths. Recent studies have found that even brief exposures to secondhand smoke can cause large increases in the risk of heart disease.”

The economic toll of smoking in Oklahoma exceeds $2.2 billion dollars each year, including $907 million in direct medical costs and $1.3 billion in lost productivity. In total, every Oklahoman pays an average of $600 each year in smoking-caused costs.

“The good news is that Oklahoma is slowly starting to realize earnings from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, allowing for proven tobacco use prevention and cessation programs to finally be available to communities across the state,” Crutcher emphasized. “It will still be several more years before there are sufficient earnings to fully implement such activities. However, we are very hopeful that these initial programs by the Trust, combined with recent key policy actions by our state leaders, will begin to turn the tide.”

A detailed summary of the Surgeon General’s report, The Health Consequences of Smoking, and other related information can be found on the CDC’s Web site ( http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco ).

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