In the days leading up to the Vernberg Lecture, the exhibit “History of Tobacco Policy” will be on display at the Public Health Research Center. This is one of the images from the exhibit.
2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report warning of the health hazards of smoking. In the intervening years, scientists, health care leaders, researchers and policy makers have determined “what works, and what steps must be taken if we truly want to bring to a close one of our nation’s most tragic battles — one that has killed ten times the number of Americans who died in all of our nation’s wars combined,” according to “The Health Consequences of Smoking — 50 Years of Progress.”
The history and current status of tobacco control and policy will be highlighted during the Winona B. Vernberg Distinguished Lecture at 11 a.m. Thursday, April 24, at USC’s Russell House Theater. The program, “Tobacco Control: A Glass Half Full or Half Empty?,” is free and open to the University community and the public.
Beginning noon on Monday, April 21, the exhibit, “50 Years of Tobacco Policy” will be on display in the first-floor atrium of the Arnold School’s Public Health Research Center. The exhibit, which will highlight the 50-year Surgeon General’s Report and a century of cigarettes, will be available through noon, Thursday, April 24.
Dr. Michael Cummings of the Medical University of South Carolina will be the featured speaker for the Vernberg Lecture, and he will share his “prescription for tobacco control in South Carolina.”
Considered one of the world’s leading authorities on tobacco policy, Dr. Cummings is co-leader of the Hollings Cancer Center Tobacco Research Program. He will discuss the current status of tobacco use and policy, which he says, is “the analogy to the glass half full or half empty, the prevalence of tobacco use, who is using and changes in the types of products.”
For example, “the move to filtered, lower-tar products confers a higher relative risk of disease compared to earlier versions of cigarettes.”
“I also will discuss where things may be headed in the future – the global epidemic of tobacco use (is history going to repeating itself in other parts of the world), alternative nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, as a disruptive force in the tobacco world and the challenge of developing meaningful product regulations to accelerate a more rapid reduction in combustible tobacco use,” he said.
Dr. Cummings said he will talk about “what we should be doing in our own backyard … while useful to think globally, what are some things we could be doing now in South Carolina to accelerate a reduction in tobacco use.”
Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services at the time of the new report’s release, says ending the tobacco epidemic is vital to efforts increase the life expectancy and quality of life of all Americans.
“This year alone, nearly one-half million adults will still die prematurely because of smoking. Annually, the total economic costs due to tobacco are now over $289 billion. And if we continue on our current trajectory, 5.6 million children alive today who are younger than 18 years of age will die prematurely as a result of smoking,.” she says.
The 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) expands access to smoking cessation services and now requires most insurance companies to cover cessation treatments. The act’s Public Health and Prevention Fund is supporting innovative and effective community-based programs as well as public education campaigns promoting prevention and helping people to quit.
The successes over the past half century are to be applauded, but the work to save lives will require a 21st prescription!
(NOTE: The Public Health Research Center, where the exhibit will be located, is at 921 Assembly Street. The Vernberg Lecture will be at USC’s Russell House Theater, located on the second floor of the building on Greene Street. Parking is available via the Bull Street Garage.)