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U.S. Surgeon General says smoking could be halved

CHICAGO (Reuters) -- U.S. smoking rates could be cut in half if proven anti-smoking campaigns were implemented, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher said Wednesday in issuing a 450-page report on the subject.

"During the past four decades we have made unprecedented gains in preventing and controlling tobacco use," Satcher said in a statement released along with the report, which summarized efforts to control tobacco use.

"However, the sobering reality is that smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in our nation, and those who suffer the most are poor Americans, minority populations, and young people," he said in a statement released at the 11th World Conference on Tobacco or Health.

Learn more about the events at the 11th World Congress on Tobacco OR Health

Among the conclusions of the report, entitled "Reducing Tobacco Use," was that smoking rates among adolescents could be cut by up to 40 percent if school-based, anti-smoking programs were combined with community and media campaigns.

Currently, only 5 percent of U.S. schools follow anti-smoking guidelines created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public anti-smoking campaigns are up against the tobacco industry's marketing machine, which spent $6.7 billion in 1998, the report said.

Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher says tobacco advertising targeting youth should be restricted. Click here to listen  

But overall smoking rates could be reduced by half if a concerted anti-smoking campaign was implemented, Satcher said.

Government regulations at all levels that ban indoor smoking and require more graphic cigarette labeling similar to those in place in Canada and Australia would help curb smoking, he said.

A sample Canadian cigarette pack, distributed at the week-long Chicago conference, featured an image of the tar-stained, diseased mouth of a smoker.

Few smokers are aware of the ingredients, additives and toxicity of the cigarettes they consume, Satcher said.

Another proven method of cutting smoking rates would be to lift prices on cigarettes by increasing taxes on the product. Satcher said a 10 percent price hike can cut consumption by up to 5 percent.

Responsibility for disseminating the anti-smoking message also rested with physicians, said Satcher. Doctors, he said, could urge smoking patients to try behavioral and pharmacologic treatment programs that can help people quit.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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