Anti-Tobacco Culture Saves Lives; Physicians Should Aim for Zero Smoking

Anniversary of first anti-smoking report reminds that more deaths can be prevented

Contact: Nicole Napoli,, 202-375-6523

WASHINGTON (Jan. 10, 2014) — Fifty years after the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, which directly named cigarette smoking as a cause of lung cancer and other detrimental health effects, smoking rates among U.S. adult smokers have been reduced by half, which is something to celebrate. But, the American College of Cardiology cautions that there is a lot more work to be done; tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States, including an estimated 40 percent of all heart disease cases.

“Physicians often discuss ‘moderation’ when helping patients change and maintain their health habits, but that is not the case with smoking. No amount of smoking is good and several studies have shown that even a small amount tobacco is very harmful. As a society we need to eliminate smoking from our culture,” said John G. Harold, MD, MACC, president of the American College of Cardiology. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, and if almost half of those cases are from tobacco, then that is a serious problem.”

A Journal of the American Medical Association analysis published on Jan. 7, said that in the past 50 years, an American man's life expectancy at age 40 has increased by an average of nearly eight years and a woman's by nearly five and a half years. About one-third of those gains are attributed to the decrease in adults smoking.

Science has also shown that the decision to smoke affects not only the individual, but the people around them too.  At the 2013 ACC Annual Scientific Session, a new study reported that 26 percent of people exposed to varying levels of secondhand smoke had signs of coronary artery calcification (CAC), a build-up of calcium in the artery walls as seen on a low-dose computed tomography scan and one of the earliest detectable signs of heart disease, compared to 18.5 percent in the general population. These effects remained whether the secondhand smoke exposure was in childhood or adulthood.

A 2011 Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) study found that breathing in low levels of secondhand smoke damaged the lining of a person’s blood vessels after just 30 minutes of exposure. Damage to the blood vessel lining has been linked to atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke. In addition a May 2012 JACC study found that even the smell of smoke lingering in a room can be harmful to non-smokers and cause blood vessel damage in as short as 30 minutes.

“The surgeon general’s report in 1964 was groundbreaking and led to an important cultural shift against smoking. Those important findings have been followed up by countless studies on the effects of smoking, which we now know are even worse than we thought,” Dr. Harold said. “It’s time to move ahead and take steps to prevent all smoking and secondhand smoking related diseases with a goal of  reducing the number of smokers worldwide to zero.”

Through its CardioSmart patient initiative, the College developed a smoking cessation texting program. Individuals can sign up by visiting and receive text messages to assist and encourage them as they give up smoking.

The mission of the American College of Cardiology is to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health. The College is a 43,000-member medical society comprised of physicians, surgeons, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists and practice managers. The College is a leader in the formulation of health policy, standards and guidelines. The ACC provides professional education, operates national registries to measure and improve quality of care, disseminates cardiovascular research, and bestows credentials upon cardiovascular specialists who meet stringent qualifications. For more information, visit


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