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Rise in illnesses tied to smoking

Washington, Jan. 17: In a broad review of scientific literature, the nation’s top doctor has concluded that cigarette smoking — long known to cause lung cancer and heart disease — also causes diabetes, colorectal and liver cancers, erectile dysfunction and ectopic pregnancy.

In a report to the nation, the acting surgeon general, Dr Boris D. Lushniak, significantly expanded the list of illnesses that cigarette smoking has been scientifically proved to cause.

The other health problems the report names are vision loss, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, impaired immune function and cleft palates in children of women who smoke.

Smoking has been known to be associated with these illnesses, but the report was the first time the federal government concluded that smoking causes them.

The finding does not mean that smoking causes all cases of the health problems and diseases listed in the report, but that some of the cases would not have happened without smoking.

The surgeon general has added to the list of smoking-related diseases before. Bladder cancer was added in 1990 and cervical cancer in 2004.

The report is not legally binding, but is broadly held as a standard for scientific evidence among researchers and policy makers.

Experts not involved in writing the report said the findings were a comprehensive summary of the most current scientific evidence, and while they might not be surprising to researchers, they were intended to inform the public as well as doctors and other medical professionals about the newest proven risks of smoking.

“I thought the science was very well done and up to date,” said Dr Robert Wallace, a professor of epidemiology and internal medicine at the University of Iowa, who helped review the report.

The report comes 50 years after the pivotal 1964 surgeon general’s report in which the government concluded for the first time that smoking caused lung cancer. That report was credited with starting to change public attitudes toward smoking, which has declined sharply.

In 1965, about 43 per cent of adults were smokers; in 2012, about 18 percent were.

 
 
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