SOURCE: Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Tobacco Control and Prevention Program

December 10, 2010 12:05 ET

Surgeon General: There Is No "Safe" Amount of Smoking

New Report Shows That Exposure to Smoke Causes Immediate Harm

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - December 10, 2010) - Los Angeles County public health officials today said a new U.S. Surgeon General's Report on the immediate harm caused by smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke shows the urgent need to reduce the impact of smoking in LA County and increase the prevalence of smoke-free environments to protect LA County residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

"The Surgeon General's report is crystal clear: there is no safe level of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. "This report highlights the need to create more smoke-free environments and make sure residents who want help quitting smoking know how and where to get it."

Increasing anti-tobacco efforts is one of the most effective ways to protect our county's health and prevent deadly and costly diseases such as lung cancer and heart attacks. The Department of Public Health Tobacco Control and Prevention Program is currently running a federally-funded anti-tobacco campaign targeting communities in the county with high smoking rates. The effort includes several policy-based initiatives, social services and support for quit smoking efforts throughout the county.

The new report found that smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke triggers physical changes that can lead to cancer, heart attacks, lung disease and many other serious illnesses, including damage to the reproductive systems of both men and women.

In addition, design changes have made cigarettes more addictive over time, according to the report. Today's cigarettes deliver nicotine more efficiently to the brain, addicting kids more quickly and making it harder for smokers to quit.

The Surgeon General's report details the serious health effects of even brief exposure to tobacco smoke. It concludes that:

  • Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 70 that cause cancer.
  • Every exposure to the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage DNA in cells of the body in a way that can lead to cancer.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke has an immediate adverse impact on the cardiovascular system, damaging blood vessels, making blood more likely to clot and increasing risks for heart attack and stroke.
  • Smoking makes it harder for women to get pregnant and can cause miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight. It also harms male fertility.

"Every inhalation of tobacco smoke exposes our children, our families, and our loved ones to dangerous chemicals that can damage their bodies and result in life-threatening diseases such as cancer and heart disease," Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said in the report.

While the overall smoking rate for LA County -- at 14.3 percent -- is substantially lower than the national average, there are still more than one million adults and adolescents in the county who continue to smoke. And smoking rates among certain populations continue to be much higher than the general population, including African Americans, Asian males, LGBT, those living in poverty, and those suffering from mental health and substance abuse problems.

Residents who are currently addicted to tobacco, have already quit or want to help a friend or relative kick this deadly addiction, can visit www.LAQuits.com for information and resources about quitting smoking, or call 1-800-NO-BUTTS, the free and confidential telephone counseling service. This service has proven to double a smoker's chances of successfully quitting than if the smoker tried to do it alone. The service also assists those trying to quit chewing tobacco and has experts to help teens quit.

The report and related materials can be found at www.surgeongeneral.gov.

The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do, please visit http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, visit our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/lapublichealth, or follow us on Twitter: LAPublicHealth.