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50th Anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health

Variety of no smoking signs

January 11, 2014 marked 50 years since U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry released the landmark report that concluded smoking causes cancer. Since the report was released in 1964, the United States has seen a number of tobacco control campaigns and litigation in an attempt to improve public health. Here are some of the highlights, taken from JAMA’s interactive timeline of  Tobacco-Related Events, United States, 1900-2014. 

  • In 1965 the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act is passed and US Congress requires health warnings on cigarette packages.
  • In 1966 warning labels reading “Caution—Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health.” begin to appear on cigarette packaging.
  • 1967 marks the first World Conference on Smoking and Health in New York.
  • 1969/1970 Congress passes the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969 which requires a stronger warning label on packaging. The act also bans cigarette advertising on television and radio.
  • January 2, 1971 sees the television and radio advertisement ban go into effect.
  • In 1975 Minnesota becomes the first state to enact the Clean Indoor Air Act, which “requires separate smoking and nonsmoking areas in public settings”.
  • 1983 marks the beginning of workplace smoking restrictions.
  • In 1984 the Food and Drug Administration approves “nicotine gum as a pharmacologic aid for smoking cessation”.
  • In 1988 California voters approve Propsition 99, ” increasing the cigarette tax from 10 cents to 35 cents per pack. Revenues are earmarked for tobacco-related public health initiatives and research.”
  • 1990 marks the end of smoking on airplanes.
  • In 1996 the Clinical Practice Guideline on Smoking Cessation is published by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research
  • After being denied in 2000, the FDA gains regulatory authority over tobacco products in 2009.
  • In 2012-2013 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launch the first fully federally funded “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign encouraging smokers to quit.

Although much progress has been made in the past 50 years, there is still much work to be done; according to the CDC an estimated total of 43.8 million people are still smokers who put themselves and others at risk every day. Cigarette smoking is also the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, something which many organizations are working to change. Examples of anti-tobacco organizations and campaigns include Smokefree Women and Tobacco Free Kids.

For more information on the Surgeon General’s Report and tobacco control, check out the following resources:

In addition to the interactive timeline, JAMA has also designated this month’s theme as “50 Years of Tobacco Control“.

To read more about the original 1964 report, visit the CDC’s page on the History of the Surgeon General’s Reports on Smoking and Health.

To read an interview with acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak on “The past, present and future of tobacco”, visit the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Public Health Newswire Voices page.


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