New Report From U.S. Surgeon General Confirms Benefit of Michigan's Smoke-Free Air Law

Contact: James McCurtis Jr. (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

December 10, 2010

Exposure to tobacco smoke - even occasional smoking or secondhand smoke - causes immediate damage to your body that can lead to serious illness or death, according to a recent report released by U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin. The comprehensive scientific report, How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease, finds that cellular damage and tissue inflammation from tobacco smoke are immediate, and that repeated exposure weakens the body's ability to heal the damage.

"This report offers further evidence of the importance of investing in tobacco prevention programming in Michigan," said Cliff Douglass, Director of the University of Michigan Tobacco Research Network and Consulting Attorney with the Smoke-Free Environments Law Project. "We need to insure that resources are available to prevent youth from starting to smoke, to protect nonsmokers from the health harms associated with secondhand smoke exposure, and to provide help to smokers who want to quit."

Tobacco smoke contains a deadly mixture of more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds, of which hundreds are toxic and at least 70 cause cancer. Every exposure to these cancer-causing chemicals could damage DNA in a way that leads to cancer. Exposure to smoke also decreases the benefits of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. Smoking causes more than 85 percent of lung cancers and can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body. One in three cancer deaths in the U.S. is tobacco-related.

Smoking causes many other harmful effects throughout the body, including making it harder for diabetics to control their blood sugar. Smoking makes it harder for women to get pregnant and can cause a miscarriage, preterm delivery, low birth weight, as well as damage to fetal lungs and brain tissue. Babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome, the report finds.

Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause cardiovascular disease and could trigger acute cardiac events, such as heart attack. The report describes how chemicals from tobacco smoke quickly damage blood vessels and make blood more likely to clot. The evidence in this report shows how smoking causes cardiovascular disease and increases risks for heart attack, stroke, and aortic aneurysm.

"We're fortunate in Michigan to have a smoke-free law in place that protects the majority of nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure in workplaces, bars, and restaurants," said Dr. Gregory Holzman, Chief Medical Executive for the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH). "We expect to see a decrease in heart attack admissions since the law was enacted, which will result in lives saved and decreased health care costs."

Holzman added the report also emphasizes the health benefits of quitting smoking.

"It is never too late to quit smoking, but the sooner that a person quits, the better for their health," Holzman said.

Fortunately, there are now more effective ways to help people quit than ever before. The MDCH Tobacco Quitline, 1-(800) 784-8669, continues to provide free telephone coaching for the uninsured and those with Medicaid and Medicare, and free nicotine replacement medications for those who qualify. Information on quitting smoking and a free printable Michigan Smoker's Quit Kit are available through MDCH by visiting: www.michigan.gov/tobacco.

To order printed copies of these documents, go to http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco and click the Publications Catalog link under Tools & Resources.