Tobacco-related illnesses take the lives of more than 16,500 Illinois residents each year and cost the state $6.7 billion annually in medical care and lost productivity, according to Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director.
"The cost of smoking to all of us is staggering, both in terms of the many years of productive lives lost and in the high price for direct and indirect health care costs," Dr. Whitaker said. "While progress has been made since the Surgeon General first reported on the harmful effects of tobacco 40 years ago, there is still much to do to reach the goal of tobacco-free generations.
"We need to protect our children from the social and cultural influences that can lead to tobacco addiction, smokers must be encouraged to quit as soon as possible and we need to ensure nonsmokers are protected from secondhand smoke."
Dr. Whitaker released statistics that showed 16,597 Illinoisans died in 2001 (the most recent year with complete statistics), or 16 percent of all deaths, due to smoking-attributable causes, including cancer, heart diseases and respiratory diseases. That is down 9.2 percent from nearly 18,500 deaths, or almost 18 percent of all deaths reported in 1999.
In 2001, there were 5,864 cardiovascular diseases deaths, 6,789 deaths from malignant neoplasms and 3,944 deaths from respiratory diseases linked to smoking. A total of 10,053 men and 6,544 women died from diseases linked to smoking.
The national release today of the 2004 U.S. Surgeon General's Report: The Health Consequences of Smoking, reveals for the first time that smoking causes diseases in nearly every organ of the body. These new findings would most likely increase deaths in Illinois attributable to smoking.
"People's lives are literally going up in smoke due to an addiction with tobacco," Dr. Whitaker said. "Our hope is these sobering statistics and the attention given to World No Tobacco Day (May 31) will encourage smokers to quit smoking for the benefit of themselves and their families. No ifs. No ands. And no butts."
Nationally, the U.S. Surgeon General estimated that for every person who dies of a smoking-related disease, there are 20 more people suffering with at least one serious illness from smoking. Excluding adult deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that adult males and females lose an average of 13.2 and 14.5 years of life respectively, because they smoke.
The $6.7 billion annual economic cost to Illinois is in terms of prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and mortality and morbidity through lost income and productivity for those who die prematurely or are disabled by smoking-related illness. That total amounts to $542 per every man, woman and child in the state.
The Illinois Department of Public Health estimates that 22.9 percent of the Illinois population 18 years of age and older in 2002 are smokers - about 25 percent of adult males and about 20 percent of adult females. The numbers of Illinoisans who smoke has been dropping. For example, 15 years ago, 26.5 percent of the adults in Illinois smoked.
Dr. Whitaker said that quitting smoking has immediate and long-term health benefits, including a reduction of risks for disease and improving overall health. Even quitting smoking at 65 years of age or older, he said, reduces by nearly half a person's risk of dying of a smoking-related disease.
For those wanting assistance with kicking the habit, they can call the Department's toll-free Illinois Tobacco Quitline at 866-QUIT-YES (866-784-8937). http://www.idph.state.il.us