Author: Larry Hand

Cigarette smoking remains a major cause of preventable diseases in the United States, with at least 14 million serious medical conditions attributable to smoking in 2009, according to an article published online October 13 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“These estimates demonstrate that smoking accounts for millions of serious medical conditions in the United States that could be avoided in the absence of cigarette use,” write Brian L. Rostron, PhD, from the Center for Tobacco Products, US Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, Maryland, and colleagues. “Our results also indicate that previous estimates may have substantially underestimated smoking-attributable morbidity in the United States.”

The researchers analyzed multiple sources of data from 2006 to 2012, including 2009 population data from the US Census Bureau, smoking prevalence and disease risk from the National Health Interview Survey of US adults for 2006 to 2012, and data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of US adults for 2007 to 2010.

Current and former smokers were significantly more likely to have at least one smoking-attributable disease and multiple smoking-related conditions compared with never-smokers. Specifically, almost half of surveyed men and women (47.5% and 44.9%, respectively) aged 65 years and older reported having one or more smoking-related disorder, and almost 17% of men and more than 14% of women reported having multiple such disorders. In contrast, among never-smokers, 34.9% of men and 33.2% of women reported at least one such condition and 9.1% and 7.5%, respectively, reported two or more conditions.

Rates of smoking-related conditions were also elevated among current and former smokers aged 35 to 64 years compared with never smokers. For example, almost 12% of adults at least 35 years old reported having diabetes. The adjusted prevalence ratio compared with never-smokers was between 1.17 and 1.30. The researchers also found high prevalence ratios for lung cancer (range, 4.45 – 9.35) and chronic obsessive pulmonary disorder (COPD; range, 2.02 – 4.00).

Extrapolating from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data on COPD prevalence, the researchers estimated 14 million “lifetime major medical conditions” could be attributed to the effects of cigarette smoking in 2009 (95% confidence interval, 12.9 – 15.1 million).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously published estimates of 8.6 million adults having 12.7 million smoking-attributable conditions in 2000.

The recent US Surgeon General’s report “concluded that previous estimates of the disease burden of smoking could be substantial underestimates, given the absence of several major medical conditions caused by smoking,” the researchers write.

Updated, Expanded
The current report is based on data from about 180,000 people surveyed between 2006 and 2012 compared with previous Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates based on data from about 20,000 adults surveyed between 1988 and 1994. The current report is also based on calculations for full variance, which is not generally done, the researchers write. The new report also corrects for underreporting of COPD in self-reported survey data, they add.

“Our study confirms that cigarette smoking remains a major cause of preventable disease in the United States,” the authors conclude. “The resulting estimate indicates that the number of major smoking-attributable medical conditions in the United States is larger than has been previously reported, demonstrating the need for vigorous smoking prevention efforts. The disease burden of cigarette smoking in the United States remains immense, and updated estimates indicate that COPD may be substantially underreported in health survey data.”

Work Remains
In an accompanying commentary, Steven A. Schroeder, MD, from the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, writes that in general, the prevalence of smoking has declined, but that this “decline is excruciatingly slow, and there are still more than 40 million smokers in the United States.” Much of current smoking is among “hard-to-reach” populations, he adds.

He concludes, “Tobacco control has been called one of the most important health triumphs of the past 50 years. Yet, although we have come a long way, there is still much more to be done, with the number of smokers worldwide now just short of 1 billion people.”

Source: JAMA Intern Med. Published online October 13, 2014

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