Why people still ignore the Surgeon General’s warnings, fifty years later

We all know the many problems associated with cigarette smoking. Not the least of which is lung cancer.

But the Surgeon General recently released a 50-year anniversary report on smoking. And it contained one shocking finding among its more noteworthy observations.

In addition to all the other risks cigarettes pose, active smokers also have a 30 to 40 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

So, if you are still smoking or know anyone who does, please share this information with them.

And believe me, I know there are plenty of smokers still out there. Some of them are my patients. And they often use the excuse that it’s “just a few cigarettes a day, so what’s the harm?”

Well, the harm is you’re almost doubling your risk of getting diabetes by surrendering to the habit. (Even former smokers have a 15 percent higher risk of the disease. That’s how severe the impact is.)

Are a few cigarettes really worth that?

This report looked at several potential mechanisms behind the link between cigarettes and diabetes. Among them was the fact that smoking can contribute to central obesity, higher cortisol levels, and an increase in inflammation and oxidative stress.

All of these, of course, can lead straight to insulin resistance and out-of-control blood sugar.

I mean, how many years have I been discussing this now? I’m starting to think that before the government spends billions of dollars each year to study anything, they should just ask me. Let’s call it WWDFD… as in, what would Dr. Fred do?

And as far as this topic is concerned, the answer is easy. I would tell you to quit smoking. Immediately. You just have to stop. It might not be easy. But I promise it will be worth it.

Studies have revealed a reduction in diabetes risk as soon as you quit. And I can only hope that the government will do its part to continue to deter Americans from smoking. Because the last thing we need in this country is more diabetics.

If you’ve ever been to Europe, you may have noticed a bold warning on the side of every cigarette package that says, simply, SMOKING KILLS. They certainly don’t sugar coat the message. (Pun fully intended.)

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., cigarette pack warning labels list what smoking “may or may not” do to your health. In doing so, we attempt to convey this very serious message in the least direct way possible–in an already too-small space.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s safe to say that simplicity is always best. Especially when it comes to matters of life and death. So it’s past time our public officials stopped mincing their words.

And after a report like this, maybe they finally will.

But here’s my question: If the Surgeon General can be so bold as to put yet another nail in the coffin of the tobacco industry, when will they make the same bold statement about sugar?

With all of these addictive behaviors, from cigarette smoking to overeating, we have to ask ourselves what’s best for the people.

At the end of the day, it really is all about the almighty lifestyle intervention. We all know what we have to do—and it really is simple. Make better choices more consistently. And encourage your friends and family to do the same.

And in my opinion, any move the government makes to facilitate this change—rather than allowing big businesses to profit off of disease—would be a long overdue breath of fresh air.

This fight doesn’t have to be about income or education levels. Good public health care policy serves everyone. What a shame that our nation’s legislators don’t seem to know the first thing about it.


“The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General” 2014. Accessed at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports/50-years-of-progress/index.html. 25 Feb 2014.