Press Release

The Center for Social Gerontology 2307 Shelby Avenue Ann Arbor, MI 48103

For Immediate Release: December 2, 1999

For more info: Contact Jim Bergman 734 665-1126

National Center for Tobacco-Free Older Persons Established by The Center for Social Gerontology

Today, The Center for Social Gerontology (TCSG), based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, announced the creation of a new National Center for Tobacco-Free Older Persons (NCTFOP). The NCTFOP will be dedicated to redressing and mitigating the physical and emotional harm to older persons caused by the actions of the tobacco industry. The NCTFOP will serve as a national advocate and source of information on tobacco and older persons issues, as well as a center for conducting research, education, and training to increase public awareness of the effects of tobacco on older persons and to reduce smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke by older persons.

Since the mid-1990's, TCSG has been in the forefront in the U.S. in focusing on issues of tobacco and older persons. TCSG's activities have now become so substantial and have resulted in the involvement of so many other groups that TCSG has created the new NCTFOP. The NCTFOP will serve as a central unit to coordinate all TCSG's tobacco-related programs and activities and as a national focal point for information, research and advocacy on tobacco and older persons issues.

The need for the NCTFOP and for greatly heightened attention to tobacco and older persons is demonstrated by the following facts, according to Jim Bergman, TCSG's Co-Director and head of the new NCTFOP:

Of the over 416,000 smoking-related deaths annually in the U.S. over 94% are to persons aged 50 and over, and over 70% of the 416,000 deaths are to persons aged 65 and over.

Over 13 million smokers in the U.S. are aged 50 and over; 4 million of whom are aged 65 and over. Thus, about 26% of all current smokers are older persons, aged 50 and over.

Today's generation of older persons -- aged 50 and over and thus born between 1900 and 1949 -- had the highest smoking rates of any generation in American history, as a result of tobacco industry advertising and promotions and the addictiveness of tobacco products. In the mid-1960's, 54% of adult males smoked and another 21% were former smokers; over 34% of adult females smoked and another 8% were former smokers.

Today's epidemic of smoking-related deaths among persons aged 50 and over is the result of these enormously high smoking rates and the deceptiveness of the tobacco industry in marketing their products and deceiving the public about the health hazards of smoking.

The vast majority of lawsuits now being brought against the tobacco industry involve older persons as the plaintiffs, whether directly in individual or class action suits, or as the persons who incurred the health costs in the state Medicaid lawsuits and the recently-filed federal Medicare suit. Older persons are the victims, and these lawsuits have been one of the means of redressing the harm done to them by the tobacco companies.

One in three smokers die prematurely in the U.S., losing an average of 12 to 15 years of life versus normal life expectancy. These victims not only lose the opportunity to experience retirement, they frequently suffer such debilitating tobacco-related diseases that they also lose the opportunity to have any form of healthy old age.

"The NCTFOP is dedicated to serving as a leader, a catalyst and a resource for national, state and local efforts to redress the harm suffered by older persons as a result of the actions of the tobacco industry," stated Bergman. The NCTFOP will shortly create a National Coalition for Tobacco-Free Older Persons consisting of national, state and local aging groups to address these issues.

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National Center for Tobacco-Free Older Persons

A Project of The Center for Social Gerontology Ann Arbor, Michigan www.tcsg.org/tobacco.htm

The Center for Social Gerontology (TCSG) announces the creation of a new National Center for Tobacco-Free Older Persons (NCTFOP) dedicated to:

redressing and mitigating the physical and emotional harm to older persons caused by the tobacco industry;

educating older persons about the health hazards associated with tobacco use and secondhand smoke;

empowering older persons to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in their communities for the protection of persons of all ages; and,

expanding the knowledge of the public, practitioners and policymakers about the harmful effects of tobacco to older persons.

To achieve these goals, the National Center for Tobacco-Free Older Persons will:

educate the public, practitioners and policymakers about the harm suffered by older persons as a result of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke due to the actions of the tobacco industry;

advocate for public policy and public health remedies to redress and mitigate the harm done to older persons as a result of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke;

spearhead, facilitate and support national, state and local coalitions and groups whose goals are consistent with the goals of the NCTFOP;

encourage and conduct research on tobacco-related issues of importance to the health, rights and well-being of older persons;

disseminate information and research findings on issues concerning tobacco and older persons; and,

conduct training and provide technical assistance on issues concerning tobacco and older persons to enhance the skills and knowledge of practitioners and policymakers interested in protecting the health, rights and well-being of older persons.

To carry out this mission, TCSG, through the National Center for Tobacco-Free Older Persons, will continue and expand the many programs and initiatives already underway, including the following:

1.) National, state and local advocacy in support of public policy and public health initiatives to redress and mitigate the harm done to older persons as a result of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

2.) The operation of the most comprehensive web site on the Internet devoted to the provision of information on tobacco and older persons at http://www.tcsg.org/tobacco.htm.

3.) The daily publication of the most current and complete Tobacco Settlement Funds Updates on our web site at www.tcsg.org/tobacco/settlement/updates.htm.

4.) The administration of the first and only international list-serve devoted exclusively to tobacco and older persons issues at agingtob-talk@smokescreen.org.

5.) The publication of a quarterly newsletter, Tobacco & the Elderly Notes, which is also available on our web site.

6.) The creation and support of a new National Coalition for Tobacco-Free Older Persons, consisting of national, state and local aging organizations.

7.) The conduct of a variety of research projects on issues concerning tobacco and older persons, including a current three-year Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded project on smoke-free environments in facilities serving older persons.

8.) The operation of various projects designed to protect the health, rights and well-being of older persons from the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, including a current project to encourage smoke-free environments in businesses and public facilities serving older and younger persons.

9.) The provision of information, training and technical assistance to aging, health and tobacco control organizations throughout the country on legal, health and policy issues related to tobacco and older persons.

10.) The preparation and dissemination of informational materials to policymakers, the media and the public on issues concerning tobacco and older persons, in order to redress and mitigate the harm caused by the tobacco industry to older persons.

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The Center for Social Gerontology, Inc. (TCSG), since its inception in 1972, has been a non-profit research, training and social policy organization dedicated to promoting the individual autonomy of older persons and advancing their well-being in society. TCSG has pursued this goal through a wide variety of projects, including serving since 1985 as an Administration on Aging-funded National Support Center in Law & Aging and, since 1995, operating a variety of first-in-the-nation projects on tobacco and older persons.

TCSG's mission is to help society adapt to the dramatic increase in the numbers of old and very old, and to insure that older persons at all socio-economic and health levels are able to meet their needs and use their talents and abilities in a changing society. We undertake to lead, and even prod, policy makers and others to consider carefully the implications of the aging of America in formulating social policies and programs.

Over the years, our specific objectives and activities have evolved in response to emerging issues and as the needs of older persons and of aging society have evolved. Currently, TCSG is focusing particular attention on: tobacco and elderly issues; law and aging issues and delivery systems; research on the provision of and standards for guardianship services; and, the use of mediation in guardianship-related cases.

For more information about the National Center for Tobacco-Free Older Persons, contact: The Center for Social Gerontology, 2307 Shelby Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103; phone 734 665-1126; fax 734 665-2071; e-mail jbergman@tcsg.org.

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