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Antismoking efforts said to have saved 8 million lives

CHICAGO — Antismoking measures have saved roughly
8 million US lives since a landmark 1964 report linking smoking and disease, a study estimates, yet the nation’s top disease detective says dozens of other countries do a better job on several efforts to cut tobacco use.

The study and comments were published online Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This week’s issue commemorates the 50th anniversary of the surgeon general report that is credited with raising alarms about the dangers of smoking.

In one study, researchers used national health surveys and death rates to calculate how many deaths might have occurred since 1964 if smoking habits and related deaths had continued at a pace in place before the report.


More than 42 percent of US adults smoked in years preceding the report; that rate has dropped to about 18 percent.

The researchers say their calculation — 8 million deaths — equals lives saved thanks to antismoking efforts.

Their report also says tobacco controls have contributed substantially to increases in US life expectancy. For example, life expectancy for 40-year-olds has increased by more than five years since 1964.

The conclusions are just estimates but lead author Theodore Holford, a biostatistics professor at Yale University, said the numbers ‘‘are pretty striking.’’

Associated Press