50 Years of Progress: Smoking and Health

August 4, 2014



The time when it was acceptable for cigarette smoke to fill offices, movie theaters, and airplanes is long forgotten and now used to set historical scenes like on the television series Mad Men. Smoking on the CBS Evening News like Walter Cronkite did is considered taboo today.

However the dangers of smoking and long term effects on health began to reach the public conscience during that 1960s timeframe. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. Released in 1964 during a time when smoking was common place, the health community started recognizing trends in deaths caused by lung cancer and other diseases linked to tobacco use.

GPO has made the original, digitized version of the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health through the agency’s Federal Digital System (FDsys): http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-SMOKINGANDHEALTH/pdf/GPO-SMOKINGANDHEALTH.pdf

To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the report, the Department of Health and Human Services released The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress and a companion summary booklet. The report is nearly 1,000 pages long, but the companion booklet at only 20 pages makes for an informative read. Designed with eye catching infographics, the booklet is a string of statistics and information on diseases related to smoking. There is a 50-year timeline across the bottom of the pages that shows the progress made on raising awareness on the harmful effects of smoking.

Some timeline highlights:

1964 – The Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health is released and 42% of American adults smoke.
1966 – The United States is the first country to require warning labels on cigarettes.
1970 – Congress bans cigarette ads on TV and radio.
1975 – The Army and Navy stop providing cigarette rations to troops.
1986 – The Surgeon General releases a report dedicated the health effects of secondhand smoke.
1990 – Congress makes domestic airline flights smoke-free.
1994 – Tobacco company executives testify before Congress that they believe nicotine is not addictive.
2010 – Half of U.S. states and DC adopt smoke-free laws.
2014 – Fifty years after the release of the Smoking and Health Report, 18% of American adults smoke.

It is evident that life-saving progress has been made and various efforts to inform and educate the public on the harmful effects of smoking have worked. Nevertheless 500,000 people die each year from tobacco-related diseases so there is still work to be done.

no smoking


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  • Buy Let\’s Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free: Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General\’s Report on Smoking and Health http://bookstore.gpo.gov/products/sku/017-023-00228-7
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  • Download The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General Executive Summary in ePub or Mobi (Kindle) formats for free http://bookstore.gpo.gov/products/sku/017-300-00008-3?ctid=!1
  • Download The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Supplemental Evidence Tables in ePub or Mobi (Kindle) formats for free http://bookstore.gpo.gov/products/sku/017-300-00012-1?ctid=!1
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About the Author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs.

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