Despite drop in popularity, cigarette smoking continues to be a leading cause of US cancer deaths

·2 min read

Story at a glance

  • Nearly 123,000 U.S. cancer deaths were caused by cigarette smoking in 2019, making up close to 30 percent of all cancer deaths for that year.

  • Researchers found smoking-attributable cancer deaths resulted in 2.2 million years of potential years of life lost (PYLL) and nearly $21 billion in annual lost earnings.

  • Despite the emergence of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, cigarettes are still the most commonly used tobacco product.

As the number of Americans who smoke cigarettes has dramatically fallen over the past several decades, smoking continues to drive a large portion of cancer deaths in the U.S. each year.

Cigarette smoking among U.S. adults has dropped from more than 33 percent in 1980, to just over 12 percent in 2020, an all-time low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But new research from the American Cancer Society shows smoking is still taking a huge toll on American life expectancy and the economy. According to a new study published in the International Journal of Cancer, nearly 123,000 U.S. cancer deaths were caused by cigarette smoking in 2019, making up close to 30 percent of all cancer deaths for that year. Cancers associated with smoking included cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, lungs and bronchus among others.

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Researchers also estimated the potential years of life lost (PYLL) as well as lost earnings among adults aged 25 to 79. They found smoking-attributable cancer deaths resulted in 2.2 million years of PYLL and nearly $21 billion in annual lost earnings.

“Our study provides further evidence that smoking continues to be a leading cause of cancer-related death and to have a huge impact on the economy across the U.S.,” Farhad Islami, lead author of the study and senior scientific director of cancer disparity research at the American Cancer Society, said in a statement.

“We must continue to help individuals to quit using tobacco, prevent anyone from starting, and work with elected officials at all levels of government for broad and equitable implementation of proven tobacco control interventions,” Islami said.

Analyses showed death rates and PYLL were the highest in states with weaker tobacco control policies and higher cigarette use, including Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, West Virginia and several others. Years of life lost was 47 percent higher in these states, according to researchers.

Despite the emergence of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, cigarettes are still the most commonly used tobacco product.

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