Taking on the Top Cause of Preventable Death

  • Medicine & Health
  • 1990

Each year more than 480,000 Americans die of tobacco use—the nation’s largest cause of preventable death, accounting for about one out of every five U.S. deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control. About two thirds of smokers say they want to quit, but only about 5 percent succeed in a given year. In 1990, the new president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Steven Schroeder, aimed his organization squarely at reducing “the harmful effects, and the irresponsible use, of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.” As part of this, the foundation spent $700 million on a range of anti-tobacco programs during the next two decades. Programs were aimed especially at reducing youth smoking, publicizing the bad health effects of smoking and of secondhand smoke, and helping addicted smokers quit. (See 1991 entry on Public Policy list for other aspects of the campaign.)


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