As the United States recognized the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s initial Report on Smoking and Health earlier this year, then Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made an important observation:
“To free the next generation from [the burden of the health consequences of tobacco use], we must redouble our tobacco control efforts and enlist nongovernmental partners — and society as a whole — to share in this responsibility. Ending the devastation of tobacco-related illness and death is not in the jurisdiction of any one entity.”
Many MD Anderson faculty and staff members in the cancer prevention and control field share this team-based philosophy. The sentiment also serves as the foundation of MD Anderson’s EndTobacco™ program, formed to more rapidly decrease tobacco-related cancers through collaborative strategies geared to ignite real change.
It’s time to kick the habit
The need for additional change is great.
In the U.S., tobacco use remains responsible for 30% of all cancers and 90% of lung cancer cases. Lung cancer is the world’s deadliest form of the disease. Even more devastating, over 43 million people still smoke, and twice as many are exposed to secondhand smoke, making them susceptible not only to lung cancer and eight other cancers, but also several other diseases.
“The ability to reduce and eliminate tobacco use is key to cancer prevention and control,” says Ernest Hawk, M.D., vice president for Prevention and head of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at MD Anderson. “Sharing the knowledge we already have and forming partnerships is what we need to make a huge impact on cancer.”
Hawk is co-leader of the cancer prevention and control platform, a component of MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program. The platform focuses on community‐based efforts in cancer prevention, screening, early detection and survivorship. It aims to measurably reduce the cancer burden, particularly among the poor and underserved. Hawk and his colleagues are targeting the tobacco epidemic through EndTobacco™, with three major goals:
- Reduce smoking in youths
- Reduce the proportion of nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke
- Increase counseling and smoking-cessation attempts among current smokers
Behind those ambitious goals are at least 100 recommendations, many modeled on best practices in tobacco control from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Unsurprisingly, all require a team approach. One strategy, for example, focuses on reducing the tobacco burden from the local to the international level by providing cessation expertise for the general public and targeted populations. This type of effort will require coordination among public health programs serving special populations whose tobacco use is disproportionately higher than in the general population.
With the launch of EndTobacco™ this past summer, MD Anderson experts hope that, despite limited resources, the state’s tobacco fighting efforts can continue to have a growing effect.
In June, MD Anderson’s first Texas Tobacco Summit brought together tobacco prevention and control experts from across the country to plan coordinated efforts and discuss the next steps. The results of that work and the new and strengthened collaborations to accomplish it will continue expanding.
Ultimately, EndTobacco™ aims to reduce and hopefully eliminate the suffering and death tobacco causes. This demands renewed commitments, enhanced collaborations and additional resources targeted toward the single greatest health threat we face. After more than five decades of combating tobacco use, there’s still much to be done, but there’s also room for optimism.
“Simply knowing what must be done isn’t enough,” says Mark Moreno, vice president for Governmental Relations and co-leader of the cancer prevention and control platform. “There must be collaborative efforts in policy, education and legislative action if we want to enact real change that will end tobacco use.”