NEW ORLEANS - Though people are panicked over Ebola, the facts tell a very different story. As of October 2014, only one person has died from Ebola in the United States. In contrast, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that 159,260 people will die from lung cancer in the United States this year. That figure is more than the Louisiana city populations of Lake Charles, Alexandria and Houma combined.
Almost all of these deaths could be prevented, a fact that the Louisiana Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (LCCCP) is emphasizing during November Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer, with pipes, cigars and breathing secondhand smoke also factoring into the disease, and only a small percentage of deaths resulting from being exposed to substances such as asbestos or radon or having a family history of the disease. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) says one in five Americans will die from a smoking-related disease this year.
Tobacco plays a strong role in a number of other cancers, including cancers of the nasopharynx, nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses, lip, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, lung, esophagus, stomach, colorectum, pancreas, cervix, uterine, ovary, kidney, bladder and acute myeloid leukemia. The result is that approximately one-third of new cancers and almost half of cancer deaths each year in Louisiana and the United States are tobacco-related.
Data from CDC indicates that Louisiana has the sixth highest smoking rate in the United States. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Louisiana Tumor Registry (LTR), LCCCP’s sister program at the LSU Health School of Public Health, reports that both the Louisiana incidence and mortality rates of tobacco-related cancer are excessive. LTR says that both rates are significantly higher for the four major race-sex groups in Louisiana (white men, black men, white women and black women) than the rest of the United States.
The problem is compounded by the fact that Louisiana does less than most states to prevent or discourage people from smoking, though it has been proven that tobacco companies manipulate nicotine levels to keep smokers addicted and spend more than $24 million each day in the United States to market its products. In a story reported by ABC News last October, Louisiana was listed as one of the ten “States That Are Addicted to Smoking” based on its policies. Raising tobacco taxes, for example, is a proven way to lower smoking rates, yet Louisiana has the third lowest such tax in the country.
In addition, smoke-free environments reduce death and disease due to smoking. And while much of Louisiana’s workforce is protected by smoke-free environments, bar and casino workers are still exposed daily to carcinogens. That is why New Orleans is considering making the city’s bars, casinos and public buildings smoke-free, and similar laws have been recently passed in Alexandria, Monroe, West Monroe and all of Ouachita Parish. Studies show that for every thirty minutes that a non-smoker inhales tobacco fumes, he or she has effectively smoked one cigarette; that amounts to almost one pack of cigarettes inhaled in an eight-hour workday. It has also been shown that some people are more genetically susceptible to tobacco-induced cancers than others, so while a smoker may not develop cancer, a non-smoker might. The CDC says 41,000 nonsmokers die from secondhand smoke each year.
Tobacco also costs taxpayers a great deal of money. Louisiana pays $1.47 billion a year in health care costs directly caused by smoking, which is almost the existing budgets of the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Prep combined. And Louisiana households pay $649 each year in smoking-caused state and federal expenditures.
If you would like more information on lung cancer or LCCCP, please go to www.lcccp.org. If you would like help quitting smoking, visit www.quitwithusla.org or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) to speak with a quit coach 24/7. If you are interested in creating smoke-free environments, visit http://www.healthierairforall.org/.
The Louisiana Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (LCCCP) is one of the CDC-funded Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs (LCP) housed at the LSU Health Sciences Center School of Public Health. For more information, go to www.louisianacancer.org.