Millions of Medical Conditions Tied to Smoking

Cigarette smoking tied to COPD and other cases of millions of smoking attributable illnesses

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Many past studies have shown that smoking cigarettes is unhealthy and can cause illnesses like COPD and cancer. Now, a new study has highlighted the extent of these illnesses caused by tobacco.

The researchers behind the new study examined a variety of data sources and estimated that, in 2009, smoking caused over 10 million medical conditions in the US.

According to the researchers, who were led by Brian L. Rostron, PhD, MPH, of the US Food and Drug Administration's Center for Tobacco Products, past studies have shown that smoking is harmful to almost every organ in the body.

Dr. Rostron and colleagues aimed to assess the medical burden tied to this harmful habit. To do so, they used data from a number of sources, including the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the 2009 US Census.

After analyzing data from NHIS, a large national survey, Dr. Rostron and team estimated that 6.9 million US adults had a total of 10.9 million smoking-attributable medical conditions. These conditions included COPD, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke and several types of cancer.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung condition that can make breathing difficult, was the most common of these conditions — using the NHIS data, the study authors estimated 4.3 million cases. They also attributed a total of 2.3 million heart attacks and 1.8 million cases of type 2 diabetes to smoking.

After looking at another data set, NHANES, the authors estimated that the number of smoking-attributable medical conditions among US adults in 2009 was around 14 million.

Based on the NHANES data, which included both surveys and lung function tests, smoking may have caused 7.5 million cases of COPD — much higher than NHIS-based estimates, which only involved self-reports, not lung function tests.

"Cigarette smoking remains a leading cause of preventable disease in the United States, underscoring the need for continuing and vigorous smoking-prevention efforts," wrote Dr. Rostron and colleagues.

These findings were estimations based on data that included self-reports of medical conditions. Further research is needed to confirm these findings, the study authors noted.

The study was published Oct. 13 in JAMA Internal Medicine. The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 13, 2014
Last Updated:
October 14, 2014