The Results Are In: Anti-Tobacco Efforts in the U.S. Have Actually Worked Quite Well

Written by Sy Mukherjee

Half a century ago, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry released the first ever Report on Smoking and Health. Since then, at least eight million U.S. lives have been saved thanks to anti-tobacco measures, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study authors write that there were eight million fewer deaths related to smoking between 1964 and 2012 than there would have been without the anti-tobacco measures, split between 5.3 million men’s lives saved and 2.7 million women’s lives saved. The gender discrepancy is likely due to the fact that men smoked at significantly higher rates than women in the 1950s and 1960s.

During this period, life expectancy at age 40 increased by nearly eight years for men and five-and-a-half years for women. And 2.3 years and 1.6 years of the increases for men and women, respectively, were thanks to tobacco control efforts. In fact, the researchers estimate that smoking rates would be about twice as high for women and three times as high for men today had aggressive anti-smoking efforts not been adopted in America:

Credit: Journal of the American Medical Association

Still, the researches are concerned that smoking rates remain unacceptably high in America and across the world.

“Despite the success of tobacco control efforts in reducing premature deaths in the United States, smoking remains a significant public health problem,” wrote the authors. “Today, a half century after the surgeon general’s first pronouncement on the toll that smoking exacts from US society, nearly a fifth of US adults continue to smoke, and smoking continues to claim hundreds of thousands of lives annually. No other behavior comes close to contributing so heavily to the nation’s mortality burden.”

The problem extends well beyond the United States. Although the adoption of stricter anti-smoking policies since 2007 alone will save approximately 7.4 million lives across 41 countries by 2050, the World Health Organization estimates that just between eight and 11 percent of the world population lives in countries with the most effective tobacco control measures, such as minimum tobacco taxes and secondhand smoke prevention efforts.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force


Donna Ferguson
Donna F4 years ago


Carol P.
Carol P4 years ago

I think that the government's job to educate is done. At this point, peer pressure and social ostracism is probably going to be more effective.

Jelena Radovanovic
Past Member 4 years ago

Great news.


I looked at this article as I was so hoping that it was going to describe methods used by the US government to stop people smoking or quit, to see if we could copy them here in Australia. I really would like an article that explains what has been done. I still think it is quite disgusting that governments hypocritically pretend to be doing all they can to stop smoking and yet.. STILL ALLOW THEM TO BE SOLD!! Isn't that a bit insane?? It really IS all about money, isn't it?

Maria A.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank you.

Bryna Pizzo
Bryna Pizzo4 years ago

Thank you for the good news. Thanks to Ron B. as well for an astute observation.

Kelly Davis-steel
Kelly D4 years ago


John W.
John W4 years ago

They are still going after the children. We have got to put pressure on the movie industry to stop accepting tobacco production money. You should see the contracts! They lay out how often the star smokes, whether he/she smokes in all his/her scenes, or in half, etc., and the reason is plainly framed in a memo that was exposed twenty years ago, "if we get them hooked when they're young, we have them for life." They know kids like to ape their film heroes and that is better than advertising on TV.

Karen Chestney
Karen Chestney4 years ago

I agree with Ron B.---...and .....Yup...I quit smoking... decided I like breathing better than smoking....

Cathleen K.
Cathleen K4 years ago

62 comments and only one conservative standing up for smoking! I guess in this case, the science is settled? The same marketing and lobbying outfits that orchestrated the 'tobacco doesn't cause lung cancer' propaganda have been employed to push anti climate change propaganda. Bob Dole knew he was lying when he stood on the Senate floor and said that milk might be responsible for lung cancer. The truly scary thing is that James Inhoff doesn't know he's lying when he claims climate change is a hoax. I'm an oldish (57) white woman, and frankly, I think the country will be better off when a lot of us are gone.