It was 50 years ago this month that the Surgeon General made a game-changing announcement to a roomful of reporters that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer and possibly heart disease.
At the time, the Surgeon General office’s report on the health effects of smoking was considered so potentially damaging to the tobacco industry that it was released on a Saturday to minimize its’ effect on the stock market. Probably for good reason: In 1964, 42 percent of Americans were smokers.
Today, that number is 18 percent.
A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) says that the Surgeon General’s announcement was the catalyst that led to a profound transformation in the way Americans view smoking. Researchers postulate that the decline in smoking since the Surgeon General’s report has prevented 8 million tobacco-related deaths – more than half of them in people under age 65.