Snap Fact #169
President Obama Fights The Smoke Screen That Filters The Effects Of Tobacco Regulation!
This is number one of a series about the accomplishments of the 111th Congress under the Obama Administration, and it's not a particularly pretty sight. We start with a follow up to SNAP-CAP # 142 which addresses the passage of the "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act", which was signed into law on June 22, 2009. Passing an Act of Congress is one thing, implementing it is quite another. In summary, the Act passed by Congress gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increased powers to regulate the tobacco industry. This included, among other things, the power to regulate their advertising, especially to youngsters. For anyone on the fence about who to vote for this November, this example of Republican foot dragging and outright resistance to a program benefiting the health and treasure of our society speaks loudly. Although this is not a headline story it examplfies what we are up against. Even after a debate is lost in Congress, the right wing does everything possible to keep a good program from being effective.
Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking. Despite these risks, approximately 46.6 million U.S. adults still smoke cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco, cigars, and pipes also have deadly consequences, including lung, larynx, esophageal, and oral cancers. The harmful effects of smoking do not end with the smoker. An estimated 88 million nonsmoking Americans, including 54% of children aged 3–11 years, are exposed to secondhand smoke. Even brief exposure can be dangerous because nonsmokers inhale many of the same poisons in cigarette smoke as smokers. Smoking is a major contributor to many chronic diseases that are driving up the nation's health care costs. Each year, diseases caused by cigarette smoking result in $96 billion in health care costs, much of which is paid by taxpayers through publicly-funded health programs.
A sample of the scope of the health crisis that is caused by smokers comes from a local New Jersey study. New Jersey’s Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers founder and family medicine practitioner, Jeffrey Brenner, used medical billing records to find that just 1% of patients accounted for 30% of health care costs in Camden. And that's not all he discovered in the city's three hospitals. He says: "We learned that someone went (to the hospital) 113 times in one year. Someone went 324 times in five years. In similar workup in Trenton, they found someone who went 450 times in one year." These were people with complicated medical histories and chronic illnesses. One patient alone racked up $3.5 million in medical bills over a five year period. As Brenner says: "They're the difficult patients to treat, and no one is being paid and incentivized to pay attention to them" What's more, Camden's problem is America's problem. Just 5% of Americans accounted for half of our nation's health care costs in 2009. This is perhaps the crucial statistic to understand about America's health care problem.