Health Advocates Use Surgeon General's Report to Support Tobacco Tax Increase in Ohio

Ohio health advocates said a new U.S. Surgeon General’s Report about the immediate harm caused by smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke shows why the Ohio Legislature should support a comprehensive tobacco tax increase, as well as an increase in funding for tobacco prevention programs in Ohio.

 “The Surgeon General’s report is the most highly respected scientific authority on smoking and health, and this report’s conclusion is crystal clear for youth and for smokers: If you do not smoke, don’t start.  If you do smoke, try to quit immediately and get the help you need to succeed,” said Shelly Kiser, director of advocacy, American Lung Association of the Midland States. “This report eliminates any excuse for failing to significantly increase Ohio’s cigarette tax, as well as equalizing the tax on other tobacco products, which is a proven way to prevent kids from smoking and to motivate smokers to quit. Increasing the tobacco tax and funding a tobacco prevention program is the most effective way to protect our state’s health and prevent deadly and costly diseases such as cancer and heart attacks.”

The new report found that smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke cause immediate harm to the human body, triggering physical changes that lead to cancer, heart attacks, lung disease and many other serious illnesses, including damage to the reproductive systems of both men and women.

 The report also finds that design changes have made cigarettes more addictive throughout time.  Today’s cigarettes deliver nicotine more efficiently to the brain, addicting kids more quickly and making it more difficult for smokers to quit.

 The Surgeon General’s report details the serious health effects of even brief exposure to tobacco smoke. It concludes that:

  • Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 70 that cause cancer.
  • Every exposure to the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage DNA in a way that leads to cancer.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke has an immediate adverse impact on the cardiovascular system – damaging blood vessels, making blood more likely to clot and increasing the risks for heart attack and stroke.
  • Smoking makes it more difficult for women to get pregnant and can cause miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight.  It also harms male fertility.

 In the report, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin states, “There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.  Every inhalation of tobacco smoke exposes our children, our families and our loved ones to dangerous chemicals that can damage their bodies and result in life-threatening diseases such as cancer and heart disease.”

Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States. In Ohio, tobacco use claims 18,500 lives and costs the state $4.37 billion in health-care costs each year. Currently, 19.4 percent of the state’s high-school students smoke and each year, 18,100 kids try cigarettes for the first time. The estimated prevalence of current smokers in Ohio is 20.3 percent in comparison to 20.6 percent for the United States. 

 The report and related materials can be found at www.surgeongeneral.gov.

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