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Statement by Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS U.S. Surgeon General on the Announcement by Pizza Hut and KFC Restaurants to Ban Smoking

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, Aug. 12, 2005
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

I congratulate KFC and Pizza Hut on their decision to ban smoking in their restaurants across the United States. This action, along with similar moves by others in the restaurant industry, will protect the health of non-smoking customers and employees, and will make a meaningful contribution in the battle to keep our young people from starting to smoke. This is especially significant for an industry that serves millions of young people each day.

As I reported in the 2004 Surgeon General’s Report on smoking, the toxins from cigarette smoke go everywhere the blood flows. Smoking kills nearly 440,000 Americans each year. On average, smoking reduces adult life expectancy by approximately 14 years. An estimated $92 billion in productivity losses occurs annually from deaths due to smoking; and when combined with an additional $75.5 billion in smoking-related medical expenditures, the total economic toll exceeds $167 billion each year in the United States.

The decision by Pizza Hut and KFC can help motivate people to quit smoking and convince young people not to start in the first place. Children don’t enter this world as smokers — they are taught to do it. Caring adults must teach kids to never try tobacco. I’ve declared this "The Year of the Healthy Child" to encourage everyone to help keep children healthy and safe, from pre-birth through their teen years. This includes preventing children from being exposed to tobacco smoke and from becoming smokers themselves.

A child’s first exposure to tobacco smoke often comes from the secondhand smoke of their own parents and loved ones. Secondhand smoke is particularly dangerous to children. Each year, second-hand smoke is responsible for 150,000 to 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis) in children younger than 18 months, which result in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations. And because their lungs are not fully developed, young children exposed to smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, asthma attacks, and other problems. Secondhand smoke increases the number and severity of asthma attacks in asthmatic children, further adding to their discomfort and limiting their school and physical activities.

It is also important that parents and other trusted adults communicate with children about staying away from tobacco. More than 4,000 children smoke their first cigarette each day. Parents are a child’s first and most influential role models. We must set the example for our children by not smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t ever start. If you do smoke, you can quit. More than one-half of all adult smokers have quit smoking. Get help if you need it. There are free or low-cost programs that can help you quit. I recommend the national network of quitlines, which can be reached by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) and the HHS web site www.Smokefree.gov.

Thank you for joining me in the fight to improve the health and well being of every American, including our youngest citizens.

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"The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General" is available at www.surgeongeneral.gov.