Tobacco Controls Saved Millions of Lives

Smoking controls added 157 million years of life in the past 50 years

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Anti-smoking efforts ramped up after the surgeon general's first report on the health consequences of smoking. According to a recent study, those efforts have saved millions of lives.

Researchers used data from previous health studies to estimate the effects of tobacco control campaigns in the past 50 years.

These researchers found that 8 million smoking-related deaths have been prevented due to the efforts to reduce cigarette smoking in the past half century.

The authors of this study noted that while the public health gains of tobacco controls have been significant, continued efforts are necessary.

"Quit smoking."

Theodore Holford, PhD, of the Department of Biostatistics at Yale School of Public Health, led this study.

January of this year is the 50th anniversary since the surgeon general's landmark report on smoking and health.

According to Dr. Holford and colleagues, the report prompted nonprofits, private companies and governments to promote smoking cessation programs and education on the dangers of smoking.

This study modeled the reductions in smoking-related deaths since 1964 in order to understand the magnitude of tobacco control efforts.

The researchers used the National Health Interview Surveys from 1965 to 2009 to estimate how prevalent smoking and smoking cessation was during that time period.

They also used the American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Studies and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to estimate death risk estimates by sex and smoking status.

Using population information, these researchers were able to calculate an estimate of the number of premature deaths and years of life lost.

Using the models, the researchers found that between 50 and 64 percent of men and 38 to 52 percent of women would be current smokers without the tobacco controls that are in place today.

Only about 23 percent of men and 18 percent of women smoke.

The model estimated that about 17.7 million people have died from smoking-related deaths from 1964 to 2012.

Tobacco controls have prevented an estimated 8 million deaths during the past 50 years, according to this study.

The model also showed that about 157 million years of life have been gained due to tobacco control.

The researchers found that people who avoided a death due to smoking added an average of 19.6 years to their life.

Additionally, the model showed that the average life expectancy for adults has increased in the past 50 years as well.

In 1964, 40-year-old men could expect to live until they were 71, but men who are 40 in 2012 have a life expectancy of almost 79 years.

The researchers estimated that tobacco control is responsible for 2.3 years of the 7.8 years of added life expectancy.

The researchers concluded that tobacco control has substantially contributed to improvements in public health over the past 50 years.

Although tobacco use is still linked to a significant number of premature deaths, measures over the past half century have added to life expectancy and prevented millions of deaths.

The authors of this study added that use of smokeless tobacco, hookahs and e-cigarettes may offset these gains in the future.

This study was published in JAMA on January 8.

The research was partially funded by the National Cancer Institute. None of the authors disclosed conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 3, 2014
Last Updated:
January 7, 2014