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DoctorThe 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was released in a press conference setting – reporters, cameras, tape recorders all going full steam. It was a big news items all over the country. In fact, this was among the top stories of 1964! The information released must have been a pretty big deal. Let’s take a look back and see why…

In 1964, more than 40 percent of adults smoked – and no one knew that it was bad for you. But then Dr. Luther L. Terry, the Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service (and a smoker himself), wanted to find out if smoking was harmful. He had the CDC look at all of the available science on smoking, and found that smoking caused lung and throat cancer as well as a chronic deep cough that won’t go away or get better.

Surgeon General Terry was so worried about the impact of the report, he kept it a big secret. Because the tobacco companies were so big and powerful, the report was released on a Saturday. That way, the companies couldn’t deny the report and there wouldn’t be a drop in cigarette sales (which in those days could have made a big impact on the whole economy). He even waited to tell President Johnson what the report said until an hour before he gave it to reporters.

He gathered reporters at 9:00 a.m. in an auditorium in the State Department. Only official reporters could come and once they arrived, they were locked inside. Once everyone was there, the Surgeon General and his Advisory Committee presented the findings of the report and answered questions.

no smokingAs a result of the findings of the report, the U.S. Congress adopted new laws that forced cigarette companies to include a health warning on all cigarette packages, stopped all cigarette advertising in broadcast media like radio and television, and required a yearly report on consequences of smoking. All of these laws are still alive today. The 1964 report started the wave of awareness and education that continues to this day. Because of these efforts, now just 22 percent of the adult population smokes! That means that only 46 million people now smoke, compared to 70 million people in 1964. The constant efforts of the CDC and others in the 40 years since that first Surgeon General’s Report are the reason that so many people have successfully quit, and why so many more don’t ever start.

 

The Timeline of Smoking

1964

1964 - First Surgeon General's Report on the Health Consequences of Smoking, the first document to link smoking to disease.

1965

1965 - Congress requires a Surgeon General's warning about the dangers of tobacco use be put on every pack of cigarette sold in the United States and makes it illegal to advertise cigarettes on the radio or on TV.

1969

1969 - Congress asks the Surgeon General to issue an annual report on the health consequences of smoking.

1988

1988 - Law prohibitng smoking on airplanes goes into effect.

1993

1993 - Congress makes it illegal to smoke in federal buildings.

1994

1994 - Surgeon General releases the first report on the health consequences of smoking among young people.

1996

1996 - Laws making it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy cigarettes go into effect.

2003

2003 - New York is the first city in the nation to make smoking in restaurants illegal. Additional states and cities across the country have since enacted the same law.

2004

2004 - The Surgeon General's Report is released announcing that smoking harms nearly every organ in the body.


 

 

 

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