Historic smoking report marks 50th anniversary
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Washington Post
Posted: January 13th, 2014
Fifty years ago, ... more than 42 percent of U.S. adults smoked, and there was a good chance your doctor was among them. The turning point came on Jan. 11, 1964 [when] U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry released an emphatic and authoritative report that said smoking causes illness and death and the government should do something about it. The reports bottom-line message was hardly revolutionary. Since 1950, head-turning studies that found higher rates of lung cancer in heavy smokers had been appearing in medical journals. A widely read article in Readers Digest in 1952, Cancer by the Carton, contributed to the largest drop in cigarette consumption since the Depression. In 1954, the American Cancer Society announced that smokers had a higher cancer risk. But the tobacco industry fought back. Manufacturers came out with cigarettes with filters that they claimed would trap toxins before they settled into smokers lungs. And in 1954, they placed a full-page ad in hundreds of newspapers in which they argued that research linking their products and cancer was inconclusive. It was a brilliant counter-offensive that left physicians and the public unsure how dangerous smoking really was. Cigarette sales rebounded. In the decades that followed, warning labels were put on cigarette packs, cigarette commercials were banned, taxes were raised and new restrictions were placed on where people could light up. While the U.S. smoking rate has fallen by more than half to 18 percent, that still translates to more than 43 million smokers. Smoking is still far and away the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.
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