Originally published October 20, 2021
J. Lee Westmaas, PhD; Priti Bandi, PhD; Nigar Nargis, PhD; Cathy Callaway; and Ilhaam Jaffer
At the juncture of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. National Cancer Act (NCA), the United States has experienced tremendous strides in reducing cancer mortality, in large part attributable to tobacco control efforts—directly or indirectly—that were developed and implemented under its auspices. Many challenges remain, but the institutes, divisions, and programs that the NCA made possible through its investment in the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will help ensure that the expertise, commitment, and funding to directly meet current and future tobacco control needs are in place.
Most crucially, scientific research funded by the Tobacco Control Research Branch of the Division of Cancer Control & Population Sciences at the NCI provided the data that are the foundation of population-based tobacco control policies. As a result, we know that policies such as increased cigarette taxes, comprehensive prohibition of smoking in workplaces and other public spaces, restriction of marketing and advertising of tobacco products, mass media campaigns, mandatory pictorial health warnings, and comprehensive statewide tobacco control programs can prevent and reduce tobacco use. Such initiatives are estimated to have averted 8,000,000 premature deaths from 1964 to 2012 and extended the mean life span by 19 to 20 years. Moreover, a focus on health care and cancer care delivery systems—spurred by the NCA, which reorganized and expanded the NCI1—was critical in illuminating the role of health care providers and oncologists in furthering tobacco control efforts, particularly in promoting smoking cessation among patients who smoke. Cessation can reduce the risk of all 12 cancers caused by smoking.