Today, it is nearly unthinkable for someone to light a cigarette at his or her desk in the office, in a restaurant while at dinner, or on an airplane between coasts. Yet in 1964, more than 40 percent of American adults were smokers who lit up as they pleased. That began to change on January 11, 1964. Tomorrow celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. The report, a landmark in the history of American public health, was the first to link smoking directly to critical health issues like lung cancer and heart disease. It quickly became the cornerstone upon which anti-smoking efforts were built across the country. Please click the chart or here for a larger image.
Fifty years later, those efforts have saved an estimated eight million lives, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Since the Report’s release, the number of American adults who smoke has been more than cut in half.
The report sparked needed, if incremental, change. Within a year, in 1965, warning labels became required on cigarette packs. The 1970s saw smoking ads removed from TV and radio while airtime was provided for anti-smoking messages. The 1980s brought the first smoking bans, in restaurants and short airline flights. Then, in the 1990s, tobacco companies publicly admitted for the first time that their products were dangerous and addictive while they settled with forty-six states for over $200 billion. Most recently, Congress passed the Tobacco Control Act of 2009 which finally gave the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products.
But over 400,000 Americans still die each year from preventable smoking-related issues.
That is why ASPPH has partnered with the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health to address tobacco use on member campuses. “Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and addiction begins with young adults. Ninety-nine percent of smokers start smoking before the age of 26. That is why it is so important to address tobacco use on college and university campuses,” said Mr. Cliff Douglas, director of the University of Michigan Tobacco Research Network and a leader of the Initiative.
In December, ASPPH convened a webinar for members detailing the practical steps of how they can advance tobacco-free policies on their own campuses. Mr. Douglas led the webinar and was joined by Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health, as well as Dean Gary Raskob (University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center College of Public Health) who detailed his experience leading Oklahoma’s push to become tobacco-free. You can watch a recording of the webinar here.
ASPPH continues to support members as they improve their campus’ tobacco policies, and the Association looks forward to the release of the 33rd
Surgeon General’s Report later this month, which will celebrate the progress made and look ahead to the work that continues.