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40th Anniversary of the First Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health

Please note: An erratum has been published for this article. To view the erratum, please click here.

In January 1964, the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health was the first official recognition in the United States that cigarette smoking causes cancer and other serious diseases. The landmark report prompted a series of public health actions reflecting changes in societal attitudes toward the health hazards of tobacco use. Among the actions were banning tobacco advertising on broadcast media; developing effective treatments for tobacco dependence; and issuing 27 Surgeon General's reports on such topics as environmental (i.e., secondhand) tobacco smoke, which led to creation of smoke-free public places, restaurants, and bars.

As a result of these and other efforts, during 1963--2002, per capita daily consumption of cigarettes among adults aged >18 years declined from 4,345 cigarettes to 1,979, the lowest figure recorded since 1941 (1,2). Current smokers in the United States are now outnumbered by former smokers. However, despite this progress, smoking remains the foremost preventable cause of death in the United States. Each year approximately 440,000 persons die from illnesses attributed to smoking (3). To reduce the number of illnesses and deaths caused by tobacco smoke, public health leaders continue to advocate adoption of proven interventions that protect persons from smoking.


  1. CDC. Surveillance for selected tobacco-use behaviors---United States, 1900--1994. In: CDC Surveillance Summaries (November 18). MMWR 1994;43(No. SS-3).
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Tobacco Outlook. Springfield, Virginia: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, October 2003; report no. TBS-255.
  3. CDC. Cigarette smoking-attributable morbidity---United States, 2000. MMWR 2003;52:842--4.

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