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Fatal smoking possibly higher than originally thought

The Los Angeles Times

The surgeon general says about 480,000 Americans die each year from smoking. But a new analysis suggests the true figure may be closer to 575,000.

The 21 causes of death that have been officially blamed on smoking accounted for 83 percent of the actual deaths among smokers who were tracked in a study published in the Thursday issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Additional diseases — including breast cancer, prostate cancer, hypertensive heart disease and renal failure — were responsible for most of the rest of the observed deaths. A very small number of deaths were because of things such as accidents and suicide, which have a more tenuous link to smoking.

Researchers from the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute and elsewhere combined data from five large, ongoing health studies: the Nurses’ Health Study I, the Women’s Health Initiative, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the Cancer Prevention Study II and the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. The researchers included 954,029 men and women who were being tracked as of Jan. 1, 2000 and who had told interviewers about their smoking status.

Between 2000 and 2011, 16,475 (19 percenr) of the 88,616 smokers died, as did 108,253 (23 percent) of the 469,141 former smokers and 56,649 (14.3 percent) of the 396,272 people who had never smoked, according to the study.

Compared to the U.S. population as a whole, the people included in this study were more likely to be white and to be highly educated. That limits researchers’ ability to generalize the findings to the entire country.


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