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How Do We Die?

September 3, 2008
by Daniel Guarnera
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Yesterday, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute released an article analyzing risk of death from various causes by age, sex, and smoking status (never smoked/former smoker/current smoker). The data gives gives a sobering reminder of the staggering public health costs of smoking. For example, a 55-year-old male smoker is as likely to die in the next 10 years as a 65-year-old male non-smoker. And while it might be expected that smokers are 7-10 times (depending on age) more likely to die from lung disease than non-smokers, it's striking to notice how causes of death ranging from stroke to heart disease are also significantly more likely to kill smokers than non-smokers in most age ranges (they only really even out as you look at 75-year-olds' risk of death).

Very neat visual representation of the data: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2008/09/01/health/0902_SCI_STATS.html Chart for men: http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/data/djn124/DC1/1 Chart for women: http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/data/djn124/DC1/2 Original article (subscription required): http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/100/12/845

Some Random Data About Tobacco Use:

  • Fully 25% of Americans over age 12 smoked at least one cigarette in the past month.
  • Over 30% of Americans used a tobacco product of some kind (including smokeless tobacco, pipes, cigarettes, etc.).
  • Smoking is more common in rural communities, the Midwest, and the South than it is in urban areas, the Northeast and the West Coast.
  • College students are about half as likely to smoke as non-college students of the same age.
  • Men use tobacco products far more than women (36% to 23%), although the difference between the sexes' cigarette use is not as large (28% to 22%).
    More data on tobacco use, from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (the 2008 Survey is released tomorrow!): http://oas.samhsa.gov/nsduh/2k6nsduh/2k6Results.cfm#Ch4
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Daniel Guarnera

Daniel Guarnera is the Director of Government Relations for NAADAC, The Association for...