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Thank you, Ms. Lynch, for making us think.

The New Britain (Conn.) Herald, Jan. 21, 2014

Cigarette smoking has declined among adults, from 42 percent in 1965 to 18 percent in 2012, according to the Washington Post.

That’s the good news.

Now, here’s the bad news. Smokers today have a much higher risk of developing lung cancers than did smokers in the 1960s, probably because of changes in the design and composition of cigarettes over time, according to a report released last week by Acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak. And that’s not all.

Experts now believe smoking is a cause of liver cancer and colorectal cancer, the fourth-most-diagnosed form of the disease in the United States, as well as Type 2 diabetes mellitus, age-related macular degeneration, erectile dysfunction and rheumatoid arthritis. It can impair the immune system, worsen asthma and cause cleft lips and palates in fetuses. And, even if you are not a smoker, you could be at risk: exposure to secondhand smoke can cause strokes.

A collection of public health and anti-tobacco groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association, said the Post, “collectively called for a ‘new national commitment” to eliminating tobacco-related deaths. Among their suggestions: tobacco tax increases, broader laws for smoke-free workplaces, strict tobacco oversight from the FDA, and aggressive advertising campaigns to help smokers quit and keep nonsmokers from lighting up.

History tells us that these efforts work. Since 1964 when medical experts first spoke out about the dangers of smoking, anti-smoking measures have spared an estimated 8 million lives in this country and contributed to longer life expectancies, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

And yet, each day, thousands of teenagers light up their first cigarette.

Our best chance of saving their lives is to reach them before they get addicted - to get the message out that smoking is neither “cool” nor harmless - and that it’s expensive.

After all, it’s been 50 years since the Surgeon General Luther Terry first spoke out about the dangers of smoking.

It’s past time for us to hear his message.