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14 Million Medical Conditions Linked Tobacco, US Study

Update Date: Oct 13, 2014 09:03 PM EDT

Tobacco kills millions of Americans each year. New research suggests that smoking contributes to approximately 14 million major medical conditions in the United States.

It's no secret that smoking, which harms nearly every organ and organ system in the human body, is the leading cause of preventable disease in the United States.

Researchers looked at data from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2009, National Health Interview Survey data from 2006 through 2012 and data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to quantify tobacco's harm.

After analyzing data from the National Health Interview Survey, researchers found that 6.9 million U.S. adults had a combined 10.9 million self-reported smoking-attributable medical conditions. Researchers used statistics from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of self-reported and spirometry (a test of lung function) data to link 14 million cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 2009 to smoking.

Study results also showed that the largest cause of smoking-attributable illness in the United States was still chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema, with an estimated 7.5 million cases attributable to smoking. However, analysis of self-reported data revealed that the prevalence might be 70 percent higher than estimated.

"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," researchers wrote in the study.

"The data from Rostron et al should serve to keep tobacco control and its 2-fold aims of preventing initiation and helping smokers quit as the most important clinical and public health priorities for the foreseeable future," Steven A. Schroeder, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, wrote in the editorial commentary piece.

"Tobacco control has been called one of the most important health triumphs of the past 50 years. Yet, although we have come a long way, there is still much more to be done, with the number of smokers worldwide now just short of 1 billion people. The article by Rostron et al is a stark reminder of that unfinished work," Schroeder concluded.

The latest findings were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

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