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Health News Florida

U.S. Surgeon General Visits Jacksonville Following Smoking Cessation Report

Surgeon General Jerome Adams spoke with WJCT about the recent trends of tobacco smoking, along with the benefits of smoking cessation.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams spoke with WJCT about the recent trends of tobacco smoking, along with the benefits of smoking cessation.

United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams was in Jacksonville on Monday to speak with at the Lutheran Services in America CEO Summit in Atlantic Beach on the benefits of investing in health in Florida.

A recent report from the Surgeon General's office highlights the downward trend for cigarette smoking in the country and the methods and benefits of smoking cessation.

The 700-page report is the first on smoking cessation in 30 years.

“We had between 200 and 250 people, most of them experts and nationally recognized in the area of tobacco control, focused on looking at the research that’s accumulated over the several decades,” Adams told WJCT News.

According to the report, 14% of American adults smoke cigarettes, an equivalent of 34 million people. Adams said in Florida, more work needs to be done to discourage smoking.

“We often tend to see more smokers in southern states for an array of reasons,” Adams said. “We tend to see more smokers in states that have lower tobacco taxes, because we know one of the most effective things you can do to lower the rate of smokers is to increase the cost.”

In 2020, the Florida cigarette tax is $1.34 per pack. According to a report from Tobacco Free Kids, Florida’s ranked 31st in the nation in taxing cigarettes. Washington, D.C. leads in the U.S. with a cigarette tax of $4.50 per pack, while Connecticut and New York both tax $4.35 per pack.

Adams said Florida could do a better job of funding state tobacco-control programs.

$300 billion every year the Unit​ed States pays in smoking-related loss of productivity, indirect health care cost, and Florida shares a disproportionate burden related to those costs,” Adams said.

The Surgeon General's report researched if cigarette smoking more greatly affects subgroups of people. It found that minority populations, people in the LGBTQ community, and those with mental illness or substances-abuse disorders are some of the sub-populations in the country that are initiated to smoke at a higher rate.

“We know in many cases, people are smoking as a means of self-medication,” Adams said. “They have stressors in their lives. And it’s important that health providers ask people why they’re smoking, and what is preventing them from [not] smoking and not just lecturing them about how smoking is bad for you and telling them they should quit.”

Three out of five smokers have tried to quit smoking, according to the report. It states that less than a third have used cessation medications approved by the FDA or behavioral counseling.

There are currently seven FDA-approved smoking cessation medications.

Adams said it's never too late to quit smoking.

“Doesn’t matter if you’re 25, if you’re 55, or you’re 85,” Adams said. “The reports shows that you can still achieve benefits in terms of quality of life and longevity. If you quit smoking, that will lower your chance of getting cancer, it will lower your chance of cardiovascular disease, it lowers your chance of reproductive problems.”

Research from the report infers health risks for pregnant women who smoke before and during the pregnancy. It also suggests men who smoke are at a higher risk of having erectile dysfunction.

With new forms of smoking on the rise, such as e-cigarettes or vapes, the report’s research team looked into whether these forms are helping people quit smoking.

“[The researchers] came to the conclusion that there is currently inadequate evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes in general are an effective cessation aid,” Adams said. “And that's for a couple of reasons. We know that there are thousands of e-cigarette products, so it's hard to say any particular one is actually effective. We also know that many people who use them are dual users, meaning they aren't actually quitting smoking combustible cigarettes. They're smoking e-cigarettes when they can and where they can, and then they're smoking combustible cigarettes at the same time.”

The FDA is coming down on e-cigarette manufacturers with recent regulations. All electronic nicotine delivery systems, known as ENDS, are not approved and must submit an application for authorization to sell the products by May 12, 2020.

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.

Copyright 2020 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.