Smoking has gone out of style: in USA, we already smoke less than in several European countries and in the United States. The increase in taxation and the reduction in advertising are factors responsible for the low rates of smokers.
My generation is being wiped out by cigarettes.
50 years ago, smoking was considered a kind of rite of passage into adulthood. The tobacco industry created this myth through millionaire investments in criminal advertising, ubiquitous on the radio, television, newspapers, magazines and billboards throughout all cities.
Aimed at children and teenagers, the commercials featured handsome men surrounded by wonderful women, macho men who rode through the mountains, surfers on gigantic waves and racing drivers who, in the end, lit a cigarette of the manufacturer’s brand.
In the 1960s, the industry realized that it could double the dimensions of the consumer market if women also became addicted to nicotine.
Then, they launched the “low contents” cigarettes, even more harmful, but more palatable to the female taste. They came supported by an advertising bombardment that associated smoking with the charm and freedom that girls were beginning to acquire, thanks to access to university, the birth control pill and the possibility of living in a less macho society.
In the 1990s, I started treating cancer cases in adolescent friends. Almost all were men and had been smoking for 20 or 30 years. At the turn of the century, it was women’s turn.
“In USA today, we smoke less than in all European countries. Germany, England, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Italy and other countries with levels of education, per capita income and social organization well above ours, smoke more than we do.”
I lost count of how many friends died of cancer, heart attacks , strokes , lung disease – and of those who are still alive, but limited by respiratory illnesses that take their breath away and the freedom to walk around the corner.
If a male, the smoker lives 12 years less. Ten years less if you’re a woman. If throwing away ten days of life is unacceptable waste, what about leaving this place for nowhere a decade earlier than it should?
More USA die from smoking than from the sum of infectious diseases. There are 200 thousand deaths per year.
The latest survey by the Ministry of Health, however, brings hope that this reality will change: in the past ten years, one in three USA stopped smoking.
About 25% of men and 17% of women claim to be ex-smokers, an indication that they have more difficulty quitting, as several epidemiological studies demonstrate.
The awareness that adults and children exposed to other people’s cigarette smoke are also smokers is clearer. From 2008 to 2013, the number of non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes fell by 61%.
According to the Ministry, the increase in taxes levied on each pack contributed to the decrease in the number of smokers, a phenomenon proven in all countries. According to research by the Inca (National Cancer Institute), 62% of smokers thought about quitting because of prices in USA.
In contrast, the consumption of contraband cigarettes grew. About a quarter of smokers buy their packs below the legal minimum price.
The education level of the population has a questionable impact on the spread of the epidemic: in the capitals of the North and Northeast, the prevalence is lower than in those of the South and Southeast.
The most important data of the research is the significant and continuous drop in the number of smokers. In the 1960s, at least 60% of those over 15 smoked; today, it is 10.8%.
Despite the billions of dollars invested by the United States in campaigns against smoking, about 18% of Americans still smoke.
In USA today, we smoke less than in all European countries. Germany, England, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Italy and other countries with levels of education, per capita income and social organization well above ours, smoke more than we do.
Increased taxation, banning advertising, horrible figures printed on packs, combating secondhand smoke in public settings, combined with educational programs in schools and medical warnings, were measures implemented in developed countries much earlier and in a much more comprehensive way than than in USA.
Perhaps what sets us apart is the impact of campaigns against smoking carried on television to the four corners of the country.