By Jonathan Springston, Editor, AHC Media

A group of high-level healthcare professionals this week proposed three strategies to reduce cigarette smoking among American adults to a rate of less than 10% in all communities by 2024.

The authors of a new report consulted with more than 100 academics, government officials, advocates, and other healthcare workers to come up with these three strategies to reduce cigarette smoking: increase excise taxes on cigarettes, encourage practitioners to work with patients to actively engage in smoking cessation programs, and clear the way for faster and safer alternative nicotine delivery devices.

“We need to pursue a long-term approach to nicotine that is coherent with, and proportionate to, the risks associated with other public health measures required to address psychoactive substances,” the authors wrote in the report’s executive summary. “These three actions need to be underpinned by heightened lay and professional media advocacy for adult tobacco cessation. It also must include continued support for expanded voluntary and legislated ways of providing smoke-free areas to all. Each of the actions should address social class, race, geographic, and other correlates of cigarette smoking-related inequalities.”

In a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released earlier this year, the CDC noted that smoking cessation and attempts to quit smoking have increased between 2000 and 2015. Those who quit or attempted to do so, according to the CDC, used counseling, medication, or a combination of both. The agency reported that in 2015, 68% of all current U.S. smokers reported their desire to quit completely.

Despite many Americans seemingly trying to quit, the CDC says states could spend more money on prevention programs. For example, in the fiscal year 2017, the agency estimates states will collect more than $26 billion from tobacco taxes, yet will spend less than 2% of that on cessation and prevention programs. The CDC notes that if states spent 13% of this estimated collection, officials could fully fund tobacco control programs at appropriate levels.

In the Feb. 28 issue of Internal Medicine Alert, Tim Drake, PharmD, MBA, BCPS, and Martin S. Lipsky, MD, wrote about a study that found individuals who smoke fewer than 10 cigarettes per day over their lifetime have a higher risk of mortality than those who have never smoked cigarettes.

“These findings by Inoue-Choi et al highlight the need to advise patients that there is no level of ‘safe’ smoking, and that for patients to optimize their health they need to abstain completely from tobacco,” Drake and Lipsky wrote. “Our guess is that most patients and providers underestimate the risk of low-intensity smoking, and continued education aimed at increasing the awareness of the risk of even low levels of tobacco use is needed for both the public and providers.”