Mon, Feb 10, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Health experts anticipate end to smoking in US

PIPE DREAM?Some US health workers said that they see the adult smoking rate dropping to 10 percent in the next decade and to 5 percent or less by 2050

AP, ATLANTA, Georgia

The bigger goal is to reduce smoking-related deaths from the current 480,000 to under 10,000. However, even if smoking rates dropped to zero immediately, it would take decades to see that benefit, since smoking-triggered cancers can take decades to develop.

While some experts and advocates are swinging for the fences, others are more pessimistic. They say the key to reaching such goals is not simply more taxes and more local smoking bans, but action by the FDA to regulate smoking.

A 2009 US law gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products. The law barred the FDA from outright blocking the sale of cigarettes, but the agency was free to take such pivotal steps as prohibiting the use of appealing menthol flavoring in cigarettes and requiring cigarette makers to ratchet down the amount of addictive nicotine in each smoke.

However, nearly five years after gaining power over cigarettes, FDA has yet to even propose such regulations. Agency officials say they are working on it.

“The industry makes money as long as they can delay regulation,” said Kenneth Warner, a University of Michigan public health professor who is a leading authority on smoking and health.

Warner and Michigan colleague David Mendez estimate that, barring any major new tobacco control victories, the adult smoking rate will drop from its current 18 percent only to about 12 percent by 2050. If health officials do make huge strides, the rate could drop as low as 6 percent, they think.

Lushniak said zero. Will that ever happen?

Some experts doubt it. As long as cigarettes and other tobacco products are legal, is likely some people will smoke them.

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