Nightly News   |  January 17, 2014

Tobacco Abuse Linked to Even More Diseases

On Friday, the U.S. Surgeon General presented a laundry list of diseases and illnesses longer than anyone had ever seen before.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> if you're looking for a measure of just how much american attitudes on smoking have changed, consider this. this broadcast started out not only sponsored by a brand of cigarettes but named after one. it was the camel news caravan. in the modern era it was renamed nbc nightly news. also in the modern era , we learned a lot about cigarettes and smoking. just today the u.s. surgeon general came out with a new report showing smoking impacts every major organ in the body and has already killed 20 million americans over the past 50 years. this is a call to action to eliminate smoking before it takes its toll on another generation. we get our report tonight from nbc 's tom costello.

>> reporter: the warning from the nation's top doctors today, the dangers associated with smoking are far worse than we ever knew.

>> today the annual death toll from smoking is approaching 500,000 per year. enough is enough.

>> reporter: it was 50 years ago this month when the surgeon general announced smoking causes lung cancer .

>> cigarette smoking is related to a higher death rate in a number of disease categories.

>> reporter: since then smoking rates have dropped from 48% of adults in 1964 to 18% now. today's thousand page surgeon general report dramatically increases the list of diseases linked to tobacco use . 13 cancers including bladder, cervical, liver, kidney, head and neck cancers . there's also diabetes, blindness, erectile dysfunction, fertility problems , rheumatoid arthritis , and cleft palates in children. kim knows the dangers of smoking but quitting has proven to be a huge strug. now she has two teenage kids.

>> i do not want my kids to smoke. i'm hoping that i will quit again and show them a better message.

>> reporter: with the smoking rate among teens on the increase, health experts worry if that rate doesn't come down soon, 1 in 13 children today could eventually die prematurely.

>> so today we're calling on all americans to join in a sustained effort to make the next generation a tobacco free generation.

>> reporter: the new goal cut the smoking rate from 18 to 10% in ten years, an all out public education effort combined with higher cigarette taxes and ultimately to make smoking a fad of the past. tom costello, nbc news, bethesda, maryland.