New JAMA Study: Smoking Declines Have Saved and Lengthened Millions of Lives Over the Past 50 Years

As the United States marks the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health, a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) powerfully illustrates how much our nation’s health has benefited from reductions in smoking over the past 50 years – and how far we still have to go to end the epidemic of death and disease caused by tobacco.

The study shows that the health gains from reducing smoking have been truly astonishing:

  • From 1964-2012, at least 8 million premature, smoking-related deaths were prevented.
  • Each of these 8 million individuals gained, on average, 20 years of life, for a total of 157 million years of life saved.
  • Most remarkably, the researchers estimated that reductions in smoking contributed fully 30 percent of the increase in life expectancy in the U.S. from 1964 to 2012.

Despite this progress, the study is also a sobering reminder of the huge toll smoking continues to have on our nation.  It finds that from 1964-2012, at least 17.6 million deaths were attributable to smoking.  Today, tobacco use is still the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing more than 440,000 Americans each year and costing the nation nearly $200 billion annually in health care expenditures and lost productivity.