Happy 50th birthday smoking awareness!

This Saturday use a lighter. Not to light a cigarette, of course, but only the virtual candles of the birthday cake of smoking awareness. For on January 11th 1964, the Surgeon General of the United States, Luther Terry, produced a 387 page report connecting smoking to lung cancer. (technically, there have been other reports prior to that, amongst which from the Royal College of Physicians in march 1962. But who wants to wait until March to eat cake? ūüėČ )



This report had a big effect on the way people viewed smoking and public health in general. Fifty years after its publication, smoking rates in the United states have been cut in half and an estimated 8 million lives were saved. The reduction in the percentage of smokers has been globally reduced, as shown at this paper very recently published in JAMA: From 1980 to 2012 the percentage of male smokers has dropped from 41.2% to 31.1% and of females from 10.6% to 6.2% (although the absolute number of smokers has increased and is now approaching one billion- the increase being attributed to population increase).

We have just published a 24-year follow-up study on smoking in Sweden. This study, by P.Midlöv and colleagues,  showed significant decreases in smoking prevalence in Sweden: Thirty-four percent of men smoked in 1980 compared to about 14% in 2005, whereas 32% of women smoked in 1980 compared to 19% in 2005. There were significant decreases in all levels of education, however this was less the case in women with low educational level.

When looking at the numbers reported in JAMA report for Sweden (covering a period from 1980 to 2012), we see similar trends: 12% of men smoked in 2012 (compared to 30% in 1980) whereas 15% of women smoked in 2012 (compared to 29% in 1980). Both in our paper and the JAMA report, the observed reduction is between 18 and 20% for men and about 13% for women.

What is happening to your country?

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