A new report released by acting Surgeon General Boris Leshniak details a host of diseases newly tied to tobacco use, including diabetes, several cancers, several birth defects and even erectile dysfunction.
Unfortunately, as revealed by the Northeast Pennsylvania Cancer Institute, tobacco continues to wreak the same old havoc in this region.
Lung cancer incidence in the region is 15 percent higher than the expected average, according to the institute. It reported that 1,357 lung cancer cases are diagnosed in the 10-county region each year, and that 982 people die from the disease.
The reason is no mystery. Progress here against lung cancer hasn't matched national progress because progress here against tobacco addiction hasn't matched the national average. About 24 percent of adults in the region continue to smoke despite its known deadly consequences, three percentage points or 15 percent higher than the state average of 21 percent and six percentage points or 33 percent higher than the national average of just 18 percent.
Dr. Leshniak called for renewed resolve at the national level, noting that if national trends don't improve, 5.6 million children will die prematurely as adults due to smoking. All of that disease also carries a price tag - $300 billion a year in medical bills, lost productivity and related costs.
In Pennsylvania the toll already is worse. As federal authorities begin to ramp up the war on smoking, the state Legislature should start playing catch-up by using more tobacco settlement money for anti-smoking education and banning smoking in all public places.