Living in modern America, it's difficult to escape the painful truth that smoking is really, really bad for you. But a new study is piling on the bad news, suggesting the bad habit's deadly consequences are larger and worse than previously thought.
Researchers recently looked at smoking in relation to a number of deadly diseases and fatal health complications that haven't before directly linked to smoking. This wider view of smoking's negative influence on health outcomes suggests cigarettes are responsible for an extra 60,000 smoking-related deaths per year in the United States.
Traditional smoking-related death totals already account for nearly two dozen diseases -- from obvious (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer) to the more obscure (acute myeloid leukemia and aortic aneurysm).
But this new study takes into account a range of additional corollary health complications -- breast cancer, prostate cancer, hypertension, liver cirrhosis, kidney failure and more. Kidney failure is a good example of how the new study builds on previous health outcome amalgamations.
"Smoking is now established as a cause of diabetes, which is one of the huge causes of kidney failure in this country," study co-author Eric Jacobs, strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology at the American Cancer Society, explained to NPR.
The research was compiled by data scientists and health experts at the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute and a number of research universities. The study pulled in data from more than one trillion Americans, health outcomes compiled over the course of a decade.
"The number of additional deaths potentially linked to cigarette smoking is substantial," Jacobs said in a press release. "In our study, many excess deaths among smokers were from disease categories that are not currently established as caused by smoking, and we believe there is strong evidence that many of these deaths may have been caused by smoking."
Taking into account the top five diseases newly related to smoking -- infections, breast cancer, prostate cancer, rare cancers and cancers of unknown site -- smokers are twice as likely to die early than nonsmokers.
"We've known for a long time that smoking kills," Jacobs told NPR. "We do think, though, that it's important to get an accurate estimate of just how many people are killed."
The new research was published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.