American Lung Association and Other Leading Public Health Organizations Recognize 50th Anniversary of First Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 8, 2014)

Today, the American Lung Association joined other leading public health and medical organizations to commemorate the 50th anniversary, on Saturday January 11, of the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health. At the event, the organizations issued a call for a nationwide commitment to “make tobacco history” by ending the tobacco epidemic for good.

The first report, issued by Surgeon General Luther Terry on January 11, 1964 was a landmark in public health, identifying smoking as a cause of lung cancer in men, a likely cause of lung cancer in women and a likely cause of emphysema and chronic bronchitis - now known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This was a clarion call in the fight against tobacco use, which is the leading cause of preventable death and illness today in the United States.

Lung cancer is a disease of the lung, and because smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, nothing is more important to the American Lung Association than finishing the job we started 50 years ago and making smoking a relic of the past,” said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “On the anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report, we’re calling for a recommitment by the nation to end tobacco use, and free us from the terrible toll it takes on our health and future. We can’t afford another 50 years.”

“Fifty years ago, the American Lung Association – then known as the National Tuberculosis Association – stood with Surgeon General Luther Terry, when he declared that smoking caused lung cancer,” said Paul G. Billings, Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Education for the American Lung Association, who was a featured speaker at the event. “The American Lung Association is proud to join with other leading public health partners to renew our commitment to eliminate tobacco use. We urge policymakers here in Washington and across the country to join us in making tobacco history.”

“We have made tremendous progress over the last 50 years, helping the public understand the risks from smoking, and working to reduce smoking rates across America,” said Billings. “However the job is far from complete and every year more than 443,000 Americans lose their lives to tobacco-related illness.”

“For more than 50 years, the Lung Association has been fighting against tobacco use, lung cancer, COPD and the other tobacco caused diseases. We’re helping smokers quit through our Lung Helpline & quit smoking programs. And here in Washington and across the country in small towns, big cities and state capitals, the Lung Association has fought with our partners to pass policies to protect everyone from the dangers of secondhand smoke; to increase tobacco taxes; to fight for adequately funded programs to keep kids from starting; and to help smokers quit,” added Billings.

“Despite the great progress of the past, in the last few years, tobacco control efforts have slowed and in some areas, even stalled,” said Billings. “The number of states passing comprehensive smokefree laws has ground to a halt, and states are spending less and less on tobacco control, or in helping people quit. In addition, the promise of the Tobacco Control Act has yet to be fulfilled, as FDA has failed to deem its regulatory power over all tobacco products.”

Featured speakers at today’s event also included Michael Terry, son of ninth U.S. Surgeon General, Luther Terry (1961-1965), and Kenneth E. Warner, PhD, Distinguished University Professor of Public Health, University of Michigan, and co-author of two new studies on the impact of tobacco control policies since 1964.

According to a new article in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Theodore R. Holford, PhD and others, including Ken Warner:

  • Smoking has killed almost 18 million people since 1964
  • Tobacco control efforts have averted millions of premature smoking deaths among Americans— 800,000 lung cancer deaths alone between 1975 and 2000 – with each beneficiary gaining on average fully 20 years in additional life
  • Proven tobacco control programs emphasizing higher taxes, smokefree environments, antismoking media campaigns, and offering evidence-based support to smokers wanting to quit, could lead us to reducing smoking prevalence to 10% nationally.

“We need the Obama Administration to use its remaining three years to save lives by aggressively fighting back against the tobacco epidemic,” explained Billings. The Food and Drug Administration must have the authority to regulate all tobacco products – including e-cigarettes and cigars. And every smoker must have access to a comprehensive quit smoking benefit, which we are waiting for the Administration to define to ensure coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Those are two things that the Administration could do this year that would make a significant difference and bring us closer to only 10 percent of adults in the U.S. smoking in 10 years.”

On January 16, the Surgeon General will release the 50th anniversary Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health.  But tobacco use remains the nation’s number one cause of preventable death, killing 443,000 Americans and costing the nation $193 billion in health care expenditures and lost productivity each year.

###

About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lung.org.