January 11, 2017 marks the 53rd anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health.
The 1964 report, released by Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry, was the first federal government report linking smoking and ill health, including lung cancer and heart disease. This scientifically rigorous report laid the foundation for tobacco control efforts in the United States.
On the basis of more than 7,000 articles relating to smoking and disease already available at that time in the biomedical literature, the Advisory Committee concluded that cigarette smoking was:
The release of the report was the first in a series of steps intended to diminish the impact of tobacco use on the health of the American people.
For several days, the report furnished newspaper headlines across the country and lead stories on television newscasts. Later it was ranked among the top news stories of 1964.
The U.S. Congress adopted the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 and the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969. These laws:
In the last 50 years, the public has an increased understanding of the devastating health and financial burdens caused by tobacco use. We now know that smoking causes a host of cancers and other illnesses and is still the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
Americans have given up smoking in increasing numbers. Nearly half of all living adults who ever smoked have quit.
However, more than 45 million American adults still smoke, more than 8 million are living with a serious illness caused by smoking, and about nearly 500,000 Americans die prematurely each year as a result of tobacco use.
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