Associations Mark 50th Anniversary of Landmark Smoking and Health Report

Half a century after a pivotal public health report was issued, associations honored its role in reducing the number of lives lost to smoking-related deaths.

Eight million lives have been saved since Surgeon General Luther Terry’s landmark report on smoking and health was released 50 years ago, according to a new study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The JAMA study credits the report with catalyzing antismoking efforts, leading to mandatory warning labels on tobacco products and a ban on TV advertising for cigarettes—and ultimately reducing the percentage of U.S. adult smokers by more than half between 1964 and 2012.

Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.

Last week, a number of associations honored Terry’s contributions to public health and called on the public health community and policy makers to continue the work of reducing tobacco use in the United States.

Wreath laying: The Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service cohosted a wreath-laying ceremony at Terry’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery on January 11—the same day the report was released in 1964. U.S. Public Health Service officers, active and retired, as well as former Surgeon General David Satcher participated in the event.

“After his report was released, Surgeon General Terry became a giant in the field of public health,” COA Executive Director Jerry Farrell said in a statement. “It led to national and then worldwide efforts to reduce smoking and tobacco use, saving countless lives.”

Call for continued action: Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, referred to the report as one of the country’s greatest public health achievements and called on the public health community to continue the work to end tobacco use.

“Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States,” Benjamin said in a statement. “And we face continued challenges with new tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products and targeted marketing to children that could undo some of our progress.”

The 10 percent goal: At an event in Washington, DC, last week, Mariell Jessup, president of the American Heart Association, outlined several goals to help reduce the adult smoking rate to less than 10 percent of the U.S. population by 2014.

“We must increase tobacco taxes, pass strong smoke-free laws, and fully fund state tobacco prevention and cessation programs,” Jessup said.

Meanwhile, Paul G. Billings, senior vice president of advocacy and education for the American Lung Association, called on the Obama administration to ensure coverage under the Affordable Care Act of comprehensive benefits to help people quit smoking. He added that the Food and Drug Administration should be given the authority to regulate all tobacco products, including cigars and e-cigarettes.

“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,” Billings said in statement.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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