"We can't let our guard down and we really need to continue our efforts," Feuer said. Recent data from the Surgeon General's office showed that one in four U.S. high school seniors still smokes and three in four high school smokers continue to smoke as adults.
Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said that "the new study is good news and very persuasive. It shows us very conclusively that less smoking means fewer smoking-related deaths."
And it is more than lung cancer rates that are likely decreasing, Horovitz noted. "Smoking cessation would also reduce rates of heart attack, stroke and the lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," he said. "The list goes on and on."
In an editorial accompanying the new findings, Thomas Glynn, director of cancer science and trends and international cancer control at the American Cancer Society, wrote: "The good news is that we have become more aggressive in our tobacco control efforts."
Many of the deaths averted occurred in 2000, suggesting that the efforts are picking up steam. Glynn noted that his own father died from lung cancer after smoking for decades and never met his granddaughter.
"He was not one of the 795,000, but seeing [her] would have brought tears to his eyes, and thinking of him, and what he missed due to tobacco, brings tears to mine," Glynn wrote.
Learn more about the risks of tobacco smoke at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Eric Feuer, Ph.D., chief, Statistical Methodology and Applications Branch, U.S. National Cancer Institute; Suresh H. Moolgavkar, M.D., program i
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