Report on health and smoking marks 40 years
"In the U.S. nearly half of all living adults who ever smoked have quit."
Two copies of the Surgeon General's 387-page Report on Smoking and Health were delivered to the White House on January 11, 1964. A Saturday was chosen for the release date to lessen the impact on Wall Street and reporters were "locked-in" without access to telephones during the news conference. The report furnished headlines for days across the country and was ranked among the top news stories that year.
Why did this report cause unprecedented coverage of a health topic? For the first time the Surgeon General publicly announced the widely recognized information that cigarette smoking is a cause of cancer and other serious diseases. The 1964 report stated that "cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action."
2004 marks the 40th anniversary of that health report and during those years individuals, private organizations, health departments and elected officials have followed the advice and called for action against the leading cause of preventable death and disease.
Congress adopted the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act in 1965 and the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969. The laws require a health warning on all tobacco packaging, banned cigarette advertising in the broadcast media and called for an annual report on the health consequences of smoking.
Health services at the federal, state and local levels have supported programs to reduce tobacco use, have disseminated research findings and have ensured continued public visibility of anti-smoking messages.
Throughout the past 40 years scientific evidence of the hazards of smoking and the dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke have increased along with availability of programs to keep youth from starting to smoke and to help smokers quit.
The population has been quitting tobacco use in increasing numbers; in the United States nearly half of all living adults who ever smoked have quit. This achievement has few equals in the history of public health and it was accomplished despite the powerful economic forces promoting tobacco.
However, there is much work to be done in prevention, education and cessation interventions as current data shows 8.6 million smokers becoming ill in the United States every year and 440,000 dying as a result of tobacco use.