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Study: Antismoking Laws Halve Lung Cancers

Finnish Antismoking Laws Linked to Dramatic Reduction in Lung Cancer
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Dec. 13, 2004 - Antismoking laws are a powerful weapon in the fight against lung cancer and other respiratory disease, according to a new Finnish study.

Researchers studied the impact of comprehensive antismoking legislation enacted in Finland in 1976 and found the measures led to a dramatic decline in smoking rates among men as well as lung cancer rates years later.

Prior to the antismoking laws, nearly 60% of men and 15% of women in Finland smoked. A rise in smoking-related diseases in the 1960s and 1970s prompted the Finnish government to enact The Finnish Tobacco Act of 1976, which included several tobacco control measures, such as:

  • A ban on tobacco advertising
  • Restrictions on smoking in public places
  • Prohibiting tobacco sales to minors
  • Health warnings on packages
  • Allocation of 0.5% of taxes from tobacco sales for use in smoking prevention

Antismoking Laws Work

To determine the effect of these antismoking measures, researchers analyzed smoking prevalence from 1960 to 2000 and lung cancer incidence 20 years later from 1980 to 2000. They also looked at deaths caused by respiratory diseases, such as emphysema, from 1980 to 1998.

The results appear in the December issue of the journal Chest.

The study showed that daily smoking prevalence among men dropped from 58% in 1960 to 28% by 2000. Lung cancer rates had increased from 1965 to 1971, but they decreased steeply from 80 to 32 cases per 100,000 men in 2000.

The rate of deaths due to respiratory diseases also declined dramatically during this period among men.

Among women, the rate of daily smokers increased from 12% to 20% from 1960 to 1973. In the years after the antismoking measures took effect in 1975, this rate of increase at first leveled off, then slightly decreased, but then rose again after 1985 to remain at 20%.

Lung cancer rates among women increased during the study period, but the rate of increase lowered in the 1980s.

Researchers say the impact of the Tobacco Act on smoking prevalence cannot be explained by any single element of the law, but is the result of a combination of factors.

"Most importantly, the results of the present study show very clearly the dramatically strong association between smoking prevalence and the occurrence of lung cancer and respiratory diseases," write researcher Anatero Heloma, MD, of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, in Helsinki, and colleagues. "This correlation can be seen in both genders, but among men the change is more conspicuous due to the large reduction in male smoking prevalence between 1960 and 2000."

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