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And from those good folks who bring you lung cancer....

...and all the other maladies that science can attribute to smoking, we now have cataracts to add to the list. A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association attributes as many as 600,000 of the estimated 3 million cases of cataracts in this country to smoking.

Two major studies formed the basis for the report--the Physicians' Health Study (involving 17,824 male U.S. physicians) and the Nurses' Health Study (of 50,828 female U.S. nurses). Doctors who smoked more than a pack of cigarettes a day were twice as likely to have cataracts as those who did not smoke at all. Nurses who smoked 35 or more cigarettes a day required cataract surgery 1.63 times more than non-smoking nurses.

Cataract surgery--to remove eye lenses that have become clouded--costs Americans billions of dollars annually. Dr. Sheila West of Johns Hopkins University said in an accompanying JAMA editorial that more research is needed to determine precisely how smoking damages the lens. Researchers theorize that smoking may reduce the level of nutrients in blood plasma that enable the lens to be clear.

In the American Journal of Public Health, other researchers claim that higher state cigarette taxes directly affect smoking habits. Studies of records from 1955-1988 in all 50 states show that a 10 percent rise in cigarette prices usually accompanies a 5 percent decline in per capita consumption of cigarettes.

Critics of this study argue that other factors could have been responsible for some of the decline. For example, some communities have laws that restrict smoking in public places.

Nevertheless, even these critics agree that prices do have an impact on smoking habits, both for smokers and would-be smokers. Together with the study's authors, they unanimously support higher cigarette taxes for everyone.

Because most Americans today are nonsmokers (including, we would hope, our legislators), a strong lobbying appeal in this direction would probably be successful.
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Title Annotation:developing cataracts from smoking habit
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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