Surgeon General Says Smoking Culture Needs To Change

By Victoria Kim 09/23/15

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wants to change people's attitudes toward smoking.

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U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy used to hijack his father’s cigarettes with his sister and cut them in half in an effort to kick his father’s habit. His father was a primary care doctor, but it was an emotional attachment to smoking that made it difficult for him to quit, Murthy said.

Murthy shared this personal experience at a panel discussion about the impact of government anti-smoking messaging at the Gateway Community College in New Haven, Conn., last Thursday, the New Haven Independent reports.

He said many people are like his father and are more swayed by culture than anything else. “People don’t make reasoned decisions about the pros and cons. Part of what we’re trying to shift is culture,” Murthy said.

A better strategy would be to focus on determining why people smoke and how to provide them with resources that will help them quit.

Murthy lists three challenges in getting people to quit: people’s lack of belief that they have control of their own health, the national focus on treatment rather than prevention, and the “myth that the battle against Big Tobacco has been won.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17.8% of American adults smoke cigarettes, the equivalent of about 42.1 million Americans. More than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease.

Smoking cessation is a major part of New Haven Mayor Toni Harp’s public health agenda. In May, the Board of Alders unanimously approved an outdoor smoking ban—which covers government buildings, playgrounds, school grounds, and sports fields—bringing the city closer to becoming smoke free.

The panel discussion took place just days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided to halt the distribution of four tobacco products, including Camel Crush Bold, because they did not meet public health requirements.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr