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50th Anniversary of Historic US Surgeon General's Smoking Report

   Over the past weekend I caught an Associated Press (AP) article noting the 50th anniversary of the US Surgeon General’s report that concluded smoking causes lung cancer. And so the fight against tobacco was begun for all the right reasons!


   It was Jan. 11, 1964 that then Surgeon General Luther Terry released the report that said “smoking causes illness and death – and the government should do something about it.” At that time statistics indicated that 42 percent of US adults smoked; today’s smoking rate is 18 percent.

   I can remember – as I’m sure many of you can – that ashtrays were found on almost every desk, coffee table, end table, night stand, kitchen and bathroom counter, and who knows where else. Watching my mother purchase a carton or two of Camels at the grocery store each week was the norm. As I became a little older I remember the checkers at the grocery store even let me buy them for my mom because they knew she was a regular shopper there and she was a regular smoker!

   But when the Surgeon General came forward with his message in 1964 it wasn’t breaking news. Since 1950 studies in medical journals had found higher rates of lung cancer in heavy smokers. And a Reader’s Digest article in 1952, “Cancer by the Carton” contributed to the largest drop in cigarette use since the Depression. Talk about the power of the printed word long before the internet and social media!

   As is well known, the tobacco industry fought back with a vengeance. But over the years more and more restrictions have limited smoking in public places. Key dates in the fight against tobacco since the Surgeon General’s report in the past 50 years (directly from the AP article) include:

1964:    US Surgeon General’s report concludes smoking causes lung cancer

1965:    Warning labels required on cigarette packs  
1971:    TV and radio commercials for cigarettes banned  
1972:    Airlines told to provide no-smoking sections   1972: Airlines told to provide no-smoking sections
1987:    Aspen Colo., becomes the first US city to ban smoking in restaurants 
1988:    Smoking banned on short domestic airline flights   
1998:    Forty-six states reach $206 billion settlement with cigarette makers
2000:    Smoking prohibited on international flights
2009:    Food and Drug Administration authorized to regulate tobacco products
   Further research on this topic has revealed that CBS News noted that the four leading causes of death – heart disease, cancer, lung ailments and stroke – are all often linked with smoking.The US Centers for Disease Control say approximately 443,000 Americans still die prematurely each year from smoking-related causes.The CDC also estimates that nearly 42 million Americans still smoke.    
   Martha Osborne, RN, BSN, Breast Cancer nurse navigator and Lung Cancer nurse navigator at The Robert and Beverly Lewis Family Cancer Care Center says that “As long as people still smoke there will be new diagnoses of various cancers.The Cancer Care Center is here to help those diagnosed with cancer to become cancer survivors and we will do everything we can for our patients – medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgery, support groups, the wig salon, the patient library, one-on-one support, and more. We’re here to treat the whole person but first and foremost we want to encourage prevention and to discourage people from ever beginning to smoke.The number one most important health change a person can make is to quit smoking; better yet – don’t ever start smoking!”

   If you’d like more information on smoking cessation or education on why to never start smoking please contact Martha at (909) 865-9691.
Kathy Roche
Manager, Public Relations
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