Our Story

For over 100 years, the American Lung Association has been fighting for the lung health of all Americans.

A Century of Milestones 1904 – 2004

1904
National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis, the first nationwide, voluntary health organization aimed at conquering a specific disease, was founded.

1907
Dr. Joseph Wales realized that the small sanatorium on the Brandywine River in Delaware, where he worked, was down to its last dollar. He wrote to his cousin, Emily Bissell, asking for help in raising the $300 he and his fellow physicians needed to keep the sanatorium open. In response, Emily Bissell designed the first American Christmas Seal and borrowed $40 to have 50,000 of them printed. Before the Christmas season was over she had raised not the $300 but $3000.

1915
The National Association joined the Modern Health Crusade that took tuberculosis associations into the nation’s schools in a vastly ingenious and successful master plan of health of education.

1920
The National Association embarked on a research program that was to become truly significant in its scope and influence. Representative of the myriad of scientific refinements and improvements were those affecting the X-ray and tuberculin test.

1929
The research committee of the National Association began supporting investigations into various improved X-ray machines and techniques. A consultation improved on X-ray was established, and in cooperation with commercial manufacturers, equipment and techniques were radically changed.

1930 to 1940s
The tuberculin test and the X-ray became twin tools of diagnosis. The tuberculosis associations, joined with health departments and the U.S. Public Health Services, bought and took them to where people were in order to conduct testing and education. In Cleveland, for example, workers in 318 war plants had been X-rayed by March 1944. And on VE Day, World War II, residents of New York City’s Harlem celebrated by lining up to get a free chest X-ray.

1948
The National Association began its medical research and teaching fellowships award program that targeted young physicians or students in related fields at the pre-and post-doctoral level. Some of the country’s leading specialists in pulmonary medicine received their start through the National Association’s fellowship program.

1950s
Dr. Edith Lincoln, a National Tuberculosis Association grantee, observed and reported that isoniazid prevented the development of serious complications in children such as miliary tuberculosis and tuberculous meningitis. Public Heath Service trials underscored isoniazid’s important role as a prophylactic agent for household contacts of tuberculosis patients.

1956
The National Association, finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on the eradication of tuberculosis without paying attention to such related illnesses as asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and many other respiratory diseases, expanded its education and program goals to include all lung disease and the elimination of the causes of these diseases.

It gave special grants to help determine the practicality and procedures of pulmonary function screening tests given on a mass scale to apparently normal population groups.

Medical fellowships were awarded to doctors to study, and then to practice and teach in the field of respiratory diseases. The research grants, which for decades had increased knowledge about tuberculosis, were expanded to include research in other lung cripplers and pulmonary physiology.

Equipment to establish or expand pulmonary disease field tackling air pollution’s relationship to ever increasing respiratory distress and the dangers of cigarette smoking.

1959
May Ellen Avery, M.D., an American Lung Association research grantee, discovered that the lungs of babies with respiratory distress syndrome lack the fatty substance, surfactant. For her continued investigative work in the field, Avery was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1991.

1960
The National Association Board of Directors issued a warning on smoking as a policy statement: “Cigarette smoking is a major cause of lung cancer.” The National Association funded six pilot projects in mass pulmonary function screening to determine whether lung disease could be detected early.

1963 to 1964
The National Association launched its Respiratory Disease Campaign to educate the public, especially those over 40, about symptoms of chronic respiratory disease.

The National Association and its affiliates encouraged the establishment of “Action for Clean Air Committees” and supported proposed Congressional action to improve control.

The National Association Board of Directors recommended that the organization conduct an aggressive campaign designed to educate the public, especially young people and those with chronic respiratory disease, about the hazards of cigarette smoking.

1968
The name of the organization is changed to National Tuberculosis and Respiratory Disease Association. The board strengthened the 1960 smoking statement and urged local associations “ to develop and sponsor an active program to prevent young people from becoming smokers, and to convince smokers that they should stop smoking.”

1970
The National Tuberculosis and Respiratory Disease Association introduced its “Kick the Habit” antismoking campaign.

1973
The National Tuberculosis and Respiratory Disease Association changed its name to the American Lung Association (ALA).

1975
American Lung Association established nonsmoker’s rights as a major program priority.

American Lung Association signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare to develop the Primary Grades Health Curriculum Project to educate young children about making wise health decisions.

1976
The Collaborative Smoking Cessation Project was started by American Lung Association, ATS and the Congress of Lung Association Staff. From this collaboration came the development of self-help manual “Freedom From Smoking® in 20 Days” and the follow-up manual “A Lifetime of Freedom From Smoking®.”

1977
American Lung Association became a smoke-free organization.

1980
The American Lung Association Occupational Health Task Force developed recommendations for Lung Association programs to prevent occupational lung disease.

1981
“Freedom From Smoking” and “A Lifetime of Freedom From Smoking®” manuals released nationwide.

SUPERSTUFF ®, a package of materials designed to teach children and their parents about asthma and self-help methods for controlling the disease, is offered nationwide.

The American Lung Association Board of Directors adopted a “Long-Range Nationwide Plan to Prevent Occupational Lung Disease.”

American Lung Association opened its Government Relations Office in Washington, DC.

American Lung Association united with the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association to form the Coalition on Smoking OR Health.

1983
American Lung Association launched its new “Smoking and Pregnancy” program for expectant mothers and their health care providers.

American Lung Association/American Thoracic Society Government Relations Office fought successfully to restore federal funding for tuberculosis programs.

1984
“The Asthma Handbook” was issued to address the needs of the estimated 5.5 million adult Americans with asthma.

1986
American Lung Association successfully lobbied Congress to permanently extend the 16-cents-per-pack federal excise tax cigarettes.

1987
American Lung Association led the successful campaign for the landmark law banning smoking on all U.S. domestic airline flights lasting 2 hours or less.

1988
American Lung Association convened a first-ever American Lung Association/ATS Task Force on AIDS policy in Washington, D.C., to explore public policy issues related to AIDS and their impact on the pulmonary community.

American Lung Association began work on a new multicomponent program, called TUFFS (Team Up for Freedom from Smoking®) for local Lung Association to help businesses create and implement smoking policies in the work place.

1989
American Lung Association led the successful campaign for a new law banning smoking on all domestic airline flights lasting six hours or less (99% of all domestic flights).

1990
American Lung Association played a key role in adoption of the significant Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990* the first air pollution law passed in more than 10 years.

American Lung Association co-chaired the Clean Air Coalition, a decade-long effort focusing public and policymaker attention on the Clean Air Act as a major public health law.

1991
American Lung Association adopted Open Airways For Schools. This program teaches elementary school children how to manage their asthma and lead healthy, normal lives. Open Airways For Schools is currently in 18,000 — or 28% — of U.S. elementary schools. We have taught almost 200,000 children how to control their asthma through Open Airways, and we have trained almost 14,000 volunteers.

Americna Lung Association successfully lobbied Congress to increase funding for lung research programs at the National Institutes of Health and to increase funding to support federal TB control programs.

American Lung Association successfully pushed for an additional 4-cents-per-pack increase in the federal cigarette excise tax, plus another 3-cent increase to take effect in 1993.

1992
American Lung Association led the successful international campaign for adoption of an International Civil Aviation Organization resolution banning smoking on all international airline flights.

1993
American Lung Association led the successful campaign that more than doubled federal appropriations for tuberculosis project grants (from $15.3 million to $34.4 million), and appropriated new TB emergency grants of $39.3 million.

American Lung Association worked at the highest levels with the EPA to develop its landmark report on the health risks of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

American Lung Association participated at the highest levels during debate over health care reform, including meetings with President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, White House health advisors and appearances before health committee in Congress.

Official adoption of the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking program to help members of the House of Representatives and their staffs adapt to a new policy prohibiting smoking in all public areas of the House and its office buildings.

1994
American Lung Association led the successful effort to secure an exemption for metered dose inhalers (MDIs) from the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty banning the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs have been used as propellants in many of the MDIs used by lung disease patients, including those with asthma. The exemption was needed to give MDI manufacturers time to develop CFC-free devices and provide an adequate transition period for physicians and patients.

1995
American Lung Association secured implementation of strong regulations to enforce the ProKids law requiring all schools and all federally funded children’s programs, such as Head Start, to be smoke-free.

1996
American Lung Association worked with the White House and Food and Drug Administration to develop groundbreaking regulations to protect children from the dangers of tobacco use.

Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU), part of the Smoke-Free Class of 2000 program, began reaching thousands of teens and elementary school children with a smoke-free message. TATU, which is managed on the national level by American Lung Association, trains teens to teach children ages 9 to 12 about remaining tobacco-free.

American Lung Association opened its public web site (http://www.lung.org), which receives an estimated nine million visitors a year.

1997
American Lung Association launched ASTHMATTACK!®, an initiative to raise $25 million to find the cause of asthma. American Lung Association began funding three National Asthma Research Centers as part of ASTHMATTACK!®.

American Lung Association was the first and foremost national voluntary health agency to speak out against special legal protections for the tobacco industry and against the 1997 deal between the Attorneys General and the tobacco industry.

American Lung Association served on the Koop-Kessler Advisory Committee on Tobacco Policy and Public Health and chaired its Environmental Tobacco Smoke Subcommittee.

American Lung Association formed a new tobacco-control advocacy group, Save Lives, Not Tobacco: The Coalition for Accountability. The coalition of more than 350 public health, consumer, medical, civic, labor and business groups advocate fair and effective tobacco-control policies at the local, state and national levels.

American Lung Association initiated its Accredited Public Policy Program to provide a structure for Lung Associations to use in developing and expanding their state advocacy efforts.

American Lung Association joined Vice President Al Gore and EPA Administrator Carol Browner in White House ceremonies unveiling tough new federal air quality standards for smog and soot. The new standards are the result of American Lung Association lawsuits filed in 1991 (smog) and 1993 (soot) against the EPA.

American Lung Association won a lawsuit to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen the health-based air pollution standards for ozone (smog), particulate matter (soot) and sulfur dioxide, which took effect in 1997.

The American Lung Association Family Guide to Asthma and Allergies, by American Lung Association Scientific Consultant Dr. Norman Edelman, is published by Little, Brown.

1998
American Lung Association partnered with the Prudential Foundation and Children’s Television Workshop (Sesame Street) to develop and distribute “A is for Asthma,” bilingual kits and award winning videos to teach preschool children and their caretakers about managing their asthma.

The American Lung Association’s 7 Steps to a Smoke-Free Life, a comprehensive smoking cessation book written by American Lung Association volunteer Edwin Fisher, is published by John Wiley & Sons.

American Lung Association secured U.S. Agency for International Development funding for international TB-prevention and control activities and initiating the global planning effort now underway at the World Health Organization.

American Lung Association’s Accredited Public Policy Program received the Award of Excellence in Government Relations from the prestigious American Society of Association Executives.

1999
Responding to a 1997 ALA complaint, the Federal Trade Commission determined that R.J. Reynolds Co. must alter its “No Additives, No Bill!” advertising campaign for Winston cigarettes.

Americna Lung Association filed two petitions with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reverse a lower court ruling that rejected components of strong new air quality standards for smog and soot.

American Lung Association filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products.

2001
Organizational Effectiveness Initiative.

2006
Initial merger of 5 states takes place to form Central States.

2007
Arkansas added to Central States.

2009
Lung Cancer Advisory Group formed.

Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act signed into law.

2010
Merger to create Plains-Gulf Region.