Cigarettes were in fashion long before we knew they could kill. Civil War soldiers rolled their own on the battlefields, movie stars puffed away in classic films, every-day Americans lit up at the breakfast table. But about 50 years ago, news started to emerge about the health risks of smoking -- and boy, did our attitudes change! Here’s a look at 10 anti-smoking efforts since then that have helped save millions of lives.
Cigarettes started carrying a health warning that read, “Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health.” Over the years, different (and much more specific) warnings were issued, including: “Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved nicotine gum to help people quit smoking. Considered a medication, nicotine gum supplies the body with nicotine to reduce cravings. A specific chewing technique ensures the right dose gets absorbed into the bloodstream.
In 1998, California was the first state in the nation to ban smoking in bars. It was also the first to have a statewide smoke-free air law, which bans smoking in most public, enclosed spaces. Today there are more than two dozen states with smoke-free air laws. “If we look at just the past 10 years or so, I would say it’s harder and harder for smokers to lie to themselves that smoking isn’t harmful,” says Sharecare Chief Medical Officer Keith Roach, MD.
The Surgeon General releases a report that says the "debate is over" about secondhand smoke: It is absolutely harmful to health. “We now know that the earlier you’ve been exposed to secondhand smoke and the longer you’ve been exposed to secondhand smoke are clear correlations with increased risk of death,” says Dr. Roach.
It happened practically under the radar -- “light” cigarettes couldn’t be called that anymore. New restrictions took effect a few years ago that prohibited cigarette companies from using “light” and other misleading health descriptors. Marlboro Lights, for instance, are now called Marlboro Gold cigarettes -- for the color on the box.
E-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, are battery-operated devices that release doses of vaporized nicotine -- minus many of the chemicals found in regular cigarettes. In 2013 they were estimated to be a $1 billion+ industry in the U.S. “They are less toxic than cigarettes, and if someone wants to use them in an attempt to quit, give it a try. But they do cause some lung damage, so they are not a permanent solution,” says Dr. Roach.
Smoking tobacco products can lead to severe health problems and even death. While quitting smoking can be very difficult for some smokers, there are smoking cessation programs and medications that can help smokers quit. There are ... many lifelong benefits of doing so, like increased lung function and decreased risk of heart disease and cancer. Understanding the importance of quitting smoking and all options available to help stop smoking is key to long-term success. More