Tobacco still a major problem among U.S. teens and around the globe, according to American Heart Association statistical update

December 29, 1999

DALLAS, Dec. 30 -- The president of the American Heart Association today called attention to two alarming trends in tobacco use: Smoking is on the increase among U.S. teens and smoking-related deaths around the globe are expected to triple in the coming century.

"Anyone who sees these statistics should be very concerned," says American Heart Association President Lynn Smaha, M.D., Ph.D., referring to data included in the 2000 Heart and Stroke Statistical Update, an annual report released today.

Already, smoking is blamed for about 1 in 5 deaths from cardiovascular diseases, Smaha says. An estimated 430,700 Americans die each year from smoking-related illnesses.

"Smoking costs U.S. residents an estimated $130 billion annually in medical care. This includes costs related to smoking during pregnancy, which has been associated with low birth weight babies. Other costs include lost workdays, lost productivity from early death and disability, and the costs of fires caused by smoking," he says. The World Health Organization reports that global mortality from tobacco use is projected to rise from 3 million deaths per year in 1990 to 10 million a year by 2025. "That1s an alarming trend that should get the world1s attention," Smaha says. According to the World Health Organization, the risk of coronary heart disease decreases by 50 percent in the year after a smoker kicks the habit and within 15 years, an ex-smoker's relative risk of dying from heart disease approaches that of a long-time non-smoker.

"Smoking is a risk factor that people can control. Therefore it's a logical place to focus our attention in our efforts to reduce deaths from heart disease and stroke in the coming century," Smaha says.

Of particular concern is the rise in cigarette smoking among teenagers. An estimated 4.1 million U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 17 are smokers.

During 1988-1996, there was a 30 percent increase in the number of U.S. teens ages 12 to 17 who took up the smoking habit. The number of these teenagers smoking on a daily basis increased by 50 percent.

"That means that each day more than 6,000 young people try a cigarette for the first time and more than 3,000 become daily smokers," Smaha says. "If those trends continue, about 5 million of these teenagers will eventually die from a smoking-related disease."

"These trends are particularly worrisome because about 80 percent of adult tobacco users began their habit before they turned 18," Smaha says. In addition, an estimated 43 percent of U.S. children under the age of 12 are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke in the home. In 1996, an estimated 15 million children and adolescents under age 18 were exposed to environmental tobacco smoke in the home, the report says. In a survey of U.S. non-smoking, working adults age 17 and over, nearly 48 percent reported being exposed to tobacco smoke either at home or on the job. The report adds that "the risk of death from coronary heart disease increases by up to 30 percent among those exposed to environmental tobacco smoke at home or at work."
For over two decades, the American Heart Association has worked to advance policies and regulations that support clean indoor air.

American Heart Association

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