Surgeon General report outlines dangers of smoking

(WJLA) - The Surgeon General on Friday deemed smoking in the U.S. a "major and tragic catastrophe."

The new report warns that not only does smoking cause lung cancer, but it can also lead to a host of other dangerous and potentially deadly diseases – including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and even erectile dysfunction.

Far fewer Americans smoke today than when the Surgeon General’s office first weighed in on the problem. Now, 18-percent of all U.S. adults smoke compared to more than 42-percent of adults considered regular smokers back in 1964.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says, "We've made a lot of progress in the 50 years since the first Surgeon General's report on smoking and health, but we're still a country very much addicted to tobacco."

One major concern is the danger from secondhand smoke.

Today’s report concludes that 2.5 million Americans died prematurely due to secondhand smoke since the 1964 report, and warns of the danger posed to pregnant women and children exposed to smoke.

The report is also calling on the government to help stop smoking with higher taxes, a complete ban on menthol cigarettes which can lure new smokers, and rules to regulate new products like e-cigarettes.

One major goal laid out in the report is to make the next generation a completely tobacco-free generation. Clearly, the U.S. has a way to go before reaching that goal, but the Obama administration calls it a worthy one.