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The Generational Toll Of Smoking

July 16, 2009

 As caregivers across the country mobilize for Sandwich Generation Month in July, the American Legacy Foundation released the results of a recent survey analyzing the unique concerns associated with tobacco use and prevention for Americans raising their own kids while simultaneously caring for their aging parents, millions of whom have been life-long smokers and are now struggling with the resulting health effects. Lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitisand emphysema, can all afflict aging smokers and can be emotionally and financially debilitating for families forced to cope with them. The survey, conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, found that 75 percent of respondents with a parent who is a current or former smoker are concerned about their aging parent’s current or past smoking or their diagnosis of having a tobacco-related disease; 34 percent of respondents with teenage or adult children indicated that they were concerned about their child’s current or potential smoking and about 5% of respondents were "sandwiched" in between—struggling with issues related to both their parents and children smoking. Nationwide, this small percentage translates to more than 10 million Americans in this situation. The survey highlights the unique position of this group of Americans and their concerns about the impact of the nation’s #1 preventable cause of death on their emotional and financial well-being. Treating tobacco-related disease is enormously expensive for families and for the healthcare system. A 2007 American Legacy Foundation report found that America’s Medicaid system could spend nearly $10 billion less within five years if all Medicaid beneficiaries who smoke, quit. Effective smoking prevention and cessation programs could cut Medicaid costs by 5.6 percent.