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Report: Smoking Causes More Diseases Than First Thought

Surgeon General Says Smoking Causes Several Types Of Cancer

May 27, 2004 | AP

The nation's top doctor says smoking does a lot more damage to the body than first believed.

In his 2004 report, Surgeon General Richard Carmona concluded that smoking causes a variety of ailments not previously attributed to smoking. Among them are acute myeloid leukemia and cancers of the cervix, kidney, pancreas and stomach. The list also includes abdominal aortic aneurysm, cataracts, periodontitis and pneumonia.

There are a number of other diseases that have been associated with smoking such as erectile dysfunction and cancers of the colon, rectum, liver and prostate but there isn't enough evidence to establish smoking as their cause, said Carmona.

Carmona told a news conference Thursday that more than 12 million people have died from smoking-related diseases in the 40 years since the first surgeon general's report on smoking and health was released. On average, men who smoke cut their lives short by 13.2 years, and female smokers lose 14.5 years.

"We've known for decades that smoking is bad for your health, but this report shows that it's even worse," Carmona said. "The toxins from cigarette smoke go everywhere the blood flows. I'm hoping this new information will help motivate people to quit smoking and convince young people not to start in the first place."

The report estimates that treating smoking-related diseases costs the nation $75 billion a year, and that the loss of productivity from smoking is $82 billion annually.

Another conclusion, consistent with recent findings of other scientific studies, is that smoking so-called low-tar or low-nicotine cigarettes does not offer a heath benefit over smoking regular or "full-flavor" cigarettes.

"There is no safe cigarette, whether it is called 'light,' ultra-light,' or any other name," Carmona said. "The science is clear: The only way to avoid the health hazards of smoking is to quit completely or to never start smoking."

Carmona said it is never too late to stop smoking. Kicking the habit at age 65 or older reduces by nearly 50 percent a person's risk of dying of a smoking-related disease, he said.

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