Published: April 7, 2008
Tobacco use is responsible for one in every five deaths in the United States each year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. And with more than 45 million Americans currently smoking cigarettes, tobacco use is also the leading preventable cause of death in this country.
CDC, through its Office of Smoking and Health (OSH), is the lead federal agency in a comprehensive, broad-based approach to reducing tobacco use. OSH is committed to ensuring that all people, especially those at greater risk for health disparities related to tobacco use, will achieve their optimal life span with the best possible quality of health in every stage of life.
Working with a variety of government agencies, professional and voluntary organizations, and academic institutions, OSH aims to prevent young people from starting to smoke, eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke, identify and eliminate tobacco-related health disparities and promote quitting among young people and adults.
"The single best step that a smoker can take to protect his or her health – and that of non-smoking family members — is to quit smoking," said Matthew McKenna, M.D., M.P.H., director, OSH. "Quitting smoking has immediate as well as long-term benefits, including reducing risks for cancer, heart disease, stroke, and respiratory illnesses."
Taking that first step to quitting is often difficult for smokers, but CDC, in partnership with the National Cancer Institute, the North American Quitline Consortium, and state tobacco control programs, developed the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines to provide callers free and easy access to tobacco cessation services in their state.
More than 1 million people have called 1-800-QUIT-NOW since it was established in November 2004. This telephone-based network serves as a single point of access for smokers to receive free quit coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to local resources in their state.
1-800-QUIT NOW is just one of many examples of OSH's efforts to protect the public's health from the harmful effects of tobacco use.
OSH also created the National Tobacco Control Program (NTCP) in 1999 to encourage coordinated, national efforts to reduce tobacco-related diseases and deaths. The program provides funding and technical support to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, 7 U.S. territories, and 7 tribal-serving organizations. In addition, CDC funds national networks to reduce tobacco use among specific populations. CDC also provides grants to 23 states for coordinated school health programs to help prevent tobacco use.
Programs funded by NTCP are working to achieve the objectives outlined in CDC's Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs—2007. This resource is an evidence-based guide to help states establish and sustain effective tobacco control programs. According to McKenna, Best Practices—2007 "identifies what works, including the investment needed to end the tobacco-use epidemic and prevent the staggering toll that tobacco takes on our families and communities."
"The tobacco-use epidemic can be stopped," said McKenna. "OSH will continue to work with policy makers, health officials, partners, and the public to ensure that tobacco control remains a core component of public health."
For more information about quitting smoking, visit http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/index.htm.