The Washington Times - January 17, 2014, 07:35AM

One out of every 13 American children alive today will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases if smoking rates to not drop, according to report by the surgeon general.

The report also says more than 20 million Americans have died over the last 50 years from smoking, and that cigarette use kills nearly half a million Americans per year.

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This results in more than $289 billion per year in direct medical care and other costs, the Department of Health and Human Services said.

HHS released the report to mark the 50-year point since a 1964 surgeon general’s report concluded that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer — a major turning points in attitudes toward the habit.

Public smoking is much more restricted today, and smokers may be charged higher health premiums in some states under President Obama’s health care law. However, some risks have increased instead of receding over the past several decades.

“Smokers today have a greater risk of developing lung cancer than they did when the first Surgeon General’s report was released in 1964, even though they smoke fewer cigarettes,” Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak said. “How cigarettes are made and the chemicals they contain have changed over the years, and some of those changes may be a factor in higher lung cancer risks. Of all forms of tobacco, cigarettes are the most deadly — and cause medical and financial burdens for millions of Americans.”