Nearly 123,000 cancer deaths, or nearly 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States in 2019, were attributed to smoking, according to a new study led by researchers at the American Cancer Society (ACS).
This resulted in more than two million Person-Years of Lost Life (PYLL) and nearly $21 billion in annual lost earnings. These losses were a lot worse in the South and Midwest, where laws against smoking were not as strong. The findings were published in the International Journal of Cancer today.
The study’s principal author, Dr. Farhad Islami, senior scientific director for cancer disparity research at the American Cancer Society, said it “provides further evidence that smoking continues to be a leading cause of cancer-related death and to have a huge impact on the economy across the U.S.
“We must continue to help individuals to quit using tobacco, prevent anyone from starting, and work with elected officials at all levels of government for broad and equitable implementation of proven tobacco control interventions.”
The authors of the study assessed the proportions and numbers of cancer deaths among people aged 25 to 79 in the United States in 2019 both nationally and by state, as well as the associated PYLL and lost earnings.
They used education-specific data for each state to adjust for changes in job status, salaries, and smoking-attributable mortality by socioeconomic status because smoking-related cancer deaths are more common in people with lower socioeconomic status.
Cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, colorectum, liver and intrahepatic bile duct, pancreas, larynx, lung and bronchus, cervix, kidney and renal pelvis, urinary bladder, and acute myeloid leukemia were all examined in this study.
According to the study’s findings, the 13 states with the highest death rates also tend to have weaker tobacco control laws and greater rates of cigarette smoking.
These states are South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. Additionally, these states’ yearly PYLL rate was 46.8% greater than that of other states and the District of Columbia (1,431 per 100,000 population compared to 975 per 100,000).
Additionally, compared to other states and the District of Columbia, these states had a 44% higher rate of lost earnings ($11.2 million per 100,000 people as opposed to $7.8 million per 100,000).
The analysis also discovered that more than half of the predicted total PYLL and lost earnings in 2019 would have been prevented if PYLL and lost earning rates in Utah (the state with the lowest PYLL rate) had been attained by all states.
In 39 states and the District of Columbia for PYLL and in 30 states for lost wages, the proportion of avoidable PYLL and lost earnings exceeded 50%.
The single most successful strategy for lowering smoking rates is to raise the cost of cigarettes through excise taxes. According to Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, senior vice president for surveillance and health equity science at the American Cancer Society and a senior author of the report, the state tobacco excise tax rate is still low in many states, especially those with the highest smoking rates.
“Eliminating existing gaps in Medicaid and private insurance coverage of cessation services is an important intervention to reduce smoking-related cancers. This would also provide access to all types of counseling and all medications approved by the FDA without cost-sharing to the patient.”
According to Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the organization that advocates on behalf of the American Cancer Society, this analysis further illustrates just how crucial lowering tobacco use is to ending misery and death from cancer.
“To end the scourge of tobacco on this country,” according to the expert, “reduce the health disparities it inflicts, and decrease tobacco-related diseases like cancer, we need local, state, and federal lawmakers to pass proven tobacco control policies, including regular and significant tobacco tax increases, comprehensive statewide smoke-free laws, adequate funding for state tobacco prevention and cessation programs and ensure all Medicaid enrollees have access to comprehensive tobacco cessation services including all three types of counseling and all FDA-approved medications.
“We have the tools to get this done, we just need lawmakers to act.”
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