Number Of U.s. Smokers Falls To 30 Percent, Study Finds

Posted: November 21, 1986

ATLANTA — In a report coinciding with the Great American Smokeout, federal health officials said yesterday that only 30 percent of Americans over 18 smoke - the lowest level in more than 40 years.

But with more than 50 million Americans still smoking and with more than 300,000 people expected to die this year as a result of heart disease, cancer and other diseases related to smoking, according to the report, Health and Human Services Secretary Otis R. Bowen recommended that all states ban the sale of tobacco to anyone under 18.

He said such laws "could have a strong preventive effect on early uptake of cigarette and other tobacco products."

Thirty-eight states have enacted legislation restricting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to minors. Fourteen of those states "have set the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products at less than 18."

The report by the national Centers for Disease Control said that only 30 percent of Americans over 18 now smoke cigarettes on a regular basis - down

from nearly 45 percent who smoked when Surgeon General Luther Terry issued his landmark finding in 1964 that linked cigarette smoking to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.

Cigarette smoking by men decreased to 33 percent in 1985, compared with rates well above 50 percent in the early 1960s. The report said that the rate was "probably the lowest rate among men in this country (since) prior to World War I." Twenty-eight percent of American women smoke, compared with 34 percent in the mid-'60s.

The 467-page document, "Smoking and Health: A National Status Report," was the first of what will become biennial reports on smoking, as mandated by the Comprehensive Smoking Education Act of 1984.

In other health news yesterday:

RUNNING AND HEART DISEASE. The opiumlike brain chemicals that may be associated with "runners' high" could be hiding symptoms of dangerous heart damage in some people, researchers reported.

Heart disease patients who experienced no pain during exercise had 35 to 40 percent more of the chemicals in their blood than did patients who felt the chest pains known as angina, said Dr. David Sheps of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

The chemicals in question are called beta endorphins. They are released by the brain and behave like opium in the body, acting as natural pain-killers.

Sheps' finding, described at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Dallas, may explain the puzzling phenomenon called "silent ischemia," a painless reduction of blood flow to the heart. It can lead to serious heart damage in some patients because they have no warning that their hearts are under stress, Sheps said in an interview.

If the finding is confirmed, it should be possible to give people drugs that would block the action of the chemicals. That would allow heart patients to feel the stress on their hearts so that they could reduce their activity appropriately, Sheps said.

BREAST CANCER. Breast cancer treatment costs thousands of dollars more when doctors remove only the lump than when they take the whole breast, largely

because of the radiation treatment that usually follows lumpectomy, a new study indicates.

Lumpectomy is rapidly gaining acceptance as an equally life-saving and far less disfiguring procedure than mastectomy, or complete breast removal, said Dr. Eric Munoz, head of surgery research at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York City.

In comparing costs associated with lumpectomies and mastectomies at the medical center in 1983 and 1984, Munoz said, he and his colleagues found that total charges for the former were 37 percent higher than charges for the latter.

The report was published in the November issue of the American Medical Association's Archives of Surgery.

One in every 20 women will develop breast cancer during her life, and half of those will die from it, according to the American Medical Association.

Of about 500,000 people undergoing breast cancer surgery this year in the United States, probably 100,000 are having lumpectomies, Munoz said in a telephone interview.

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