PHILADELPHIA — The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health with a special article collection from several of its journals. This collection includes original research and review articles on tobacco and cancer.
In a special report published in Clinical Cancer Research, Roy S. Herbst, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the AACR Tobacco and Cancer Subcommittee and ensign professor of medicine, professor of pharmacology, and chief of medical oncology at Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center, and colleagues note that when the Surgeon General issued his report on smoking and health in 1964, 42 percent of American adults smoked. Today, smoking among American adults has fallen to 18 percent thanks to a series of important public health initiatives spurred by the Surgeon General’s report. However, we still have a long way to go, the authors note.
“We have made significant progress in the last 50 years in reducing tobacco-related illnesses, which was made possible, in part, by the enormous body of scientific evidence demonstrating the deleterious health effects of tobacco use, and AACR members have played an important role in building this evidence base,” said Herbst, in an interview. “Smoking, however, is still the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and kills 480,000 Americans each year. We must do more to educate people about the dangers of tobacco use and help those who use tobacco to quit.”
In a commentary in Clinical Cancer Research, Howard Koh, M.D., M.P.H., assistant secretary for health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, lauds the progress we have made in reducing the widespread use of tobacco, including the landmark decision by CVS Caremark to stop selling tobacco products, while he directs our attention to the challenges we have ahead of us, if we are to make tobacco a conquered history. “It shouldn’t take another 50 years,” writes Koh. “Achieving that goal will require even more committed leadership through every sector of society that rejects the status quo and envisions a healthier future. In 2014, we honor new milestones but also must explore the promise of a true end game for tobacco.”
In an article in Cancer Discovery, Mitchell Zeller, J.D., director of the Center for Tobacco Products of the Food and Drug Administration, notes, “It is amazing that, with everything we’ve learned about the harms of tobacco use, we seem to have flatlined in terms of smoking rates nationally. One out of five adults still smokes, and too many kids become regular smokers.” As a society we are failing kids, says Zeller. “Educating the public—especially young people—is a huge priority.”
The AACR has played an important role, and continues to do so, in fostering tobacco-related cancer research with the goal of ending the tobacco epidemic. Highlights include publication of more than 2,000 primary research and review articles to understand the impact of tobacco on health since 1964, issuance of the AACR’s first policy statement on smoking in 1968 to encourage educational and research programs aimed at decreasing smoking, formation of a tobacco and cancer subcommittee to foster scientific and policy initiatives to reduce incidence and mortality of tobacco-related cancer, and ongoing advocacy for investment in tobacco regulatory research and the implementation of evidence-based tobacco control strategies.
In 2010, the AACR’s Tobacco and Cancer Subcommittee, which was formed to develop and foster scientific and policy initiatives to reduce the incidence and mortality of tobacco-related cancers, issued a comprehensive policy statement on tobacco and cancer.
“The AACR is working to implement the recommendations from this statement, which are critical to reducing the burden of death and disability from tobacco, a major carcinogen that causes 18 different types of cancer and one-third of all cancer deaths,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the AACR.
In addition, the AACR is developing in partnership with the American Society of Clinical Oncology a policy statement on electronic cigarettes that will emphasize the much-needed research on this subject in order to provide guidance to health care providers and develop recommendations for regulating these products.