Today, as we celebrate the Great American Smokeout, I encourage all smokers to join the millions of others around the country who have committed to living a tobacco-free life. Quitting smoking is one of the most impactful things a person can do to improve health, lower risk for a range of diseases, and increase longevity.
Smoking is still the single largest preventable cause of disease, disability, and premature death in the United States. Each year, more than 440,000 people in the U.S. die from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and more than 8 million Americans are living with a serious illness caused by smoking.
By quitting, smokers can reclaim their health. The benefits begin the day a smoker quits and continue for the rest of his or her life. Over the last several years the Obama administration and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have taken concrete steps to reduce tobacco use. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a successful media campaign encouraging people to quit smoking by highlighting the toll that smoking-related illnesses take on smokers and their loved ones. CDC estimates that 1.6 million Americans tried to quit smoking because of the 2012 Tips From Former Smokers campaign, and at a minimum, more than 100,000 Americans quit smoking long-term because of the campaign.
In 2014, we will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health with the release of a new report, which will highlight 50 years of progress in tobacco control and prevention and present new data on the health consequences of tobacco use. We have come a great distance in these fifty years, but there are still lives to be spared suffering due to tobacco use.
Today, on the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout, let's support our family and friends who are smokers by encouraging them to not smoke today and to make plans to quit smoking for good. For individuals trying to quit, there is help. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free assistance, and visit www.BeTobaccoFree.gov, a comprehensive website with information on avoiding or ending tobacco use.
It is my sincere hope that by continuing our efforts to end the tobacco epidemic, we will create a tobacco-free generation.