Breaking: 480,000 Americans still die from cigarettes every year

At the Atlantic Monthly, Kenneth Warner and I have a 7,000 word piece called the Nicotine Fix. Ken is one of the nation’s leading tobacco control experts and a former dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. It was great to be his wingman on this. We discuss the remarkable, yet incomplete progress America has made in reducing tobacco-related deaths. In the fifty years since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report, efforts to reduce smoking have prevented an estimated eight million deaths. Each of these eight million people received an additional twenty years of human life.

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As educated and affluent people turn away from smoking, it’s easy to forget some basic realities. 480,000 Americans still die of smoking-related causes every year. That’s an amazing figure. Our piece discusses the disgraceful history but more promising history of tobacco harm reduction efforts. Both of my in-laws died harrowing deaths from lung cancer, way before their time. I wish they had access to e-cigs or other products they might have substituted for combustable tobacco.

Incidentally, Ken and I are very grateful to Jennie Rothenberg Gritz and others at the Atlantic. They produced our piece beautifully. We have old tobacco ads and videos, and graphs like the one above, drawn from Surgeon General reports. We hope you enjoy reading it.