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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Georgia State/FDA Study: Smoking Still a Leading Cause of Disease in U.S.

Cigarette smoking remains a leading cause of serious, preventable disease in the United States, with adults reporting at least 14 million major medical conditions attributable to smoking, according to a new study co-authored by researchers at Georgia State University’s School of Public Health and the Center for Tobacco Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Dr. Terry F. Pechacek, a professor of health management and policy at Georgia State, was the senior author of the study, “Estimation of Cigarette Smoking-Attributable Morbidity in the United States,” which is published in the December issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

The last assessment of smoking-attributable morbidity was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2000, with a finding that 8.6 million people accounted for 12.7 medical conditions related to smoking, mostly chronic bronchitis and emphysema, commonly falling under the umbrella of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

This new study notes that in the years since, more medical conditions have been linked to smoking, including diabetes mellitus and colorectal and stomach cancer. This analysis provides the first estimates of smoking-attributable conditions related to these diseases as well as medical conditions more traditionally associated with smoking. It also addresses previous under-reporting of COPD cases by using data collected from spirometry tests, which are commonly used in doctors’ offices to help measure lung function and check for COPD and other conditions.

The researchers noted that their methodology is conservative and probably underestimates that number of serious health problems related to smoking. It notes that “vigorous smoking-prevention efforts” are still needed in the U.S.

The authors conclude: “The disease burden of cigarette smoking in the United States remains immense, and updated estimates indicate that COPD may be substantially underreported in health survey data.”

Dr. Pechacek was deputy director for research translation in the Office on Smoking and Health at the CDC from 2012 through October 2014. The other co-authors of the study are Dr. Brian L. Rostron and Dr. Cindy M. Chang, both of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

To read the research paper, go to:

To learn more about Dr. Pechacek’s work, go to: