(c) 2016 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The 50-year war on smoking

The 1964 U.S. Surgeon General's report on smoking — the first official acknowledgment by the federal government that smoking kills — was an extraordinarily progressive document for its time. It swiftly led to a federal law that restricted tobacco advertising and required the now-familiar warning label on each pack of cigarettes.
Yet there was nothing truly surprising about the conclusion of the report. Throughout the 1950s, scientists had been discovering various ways in which smoking took a toll on people's health. Britain issued its own report, with the same findings, two years before ours. Intense lobbying by the tobacco industry slowed the U.S. attack on smoking. And even when then-Surgeon General Luther Terry convened a panel before the report was issued to make sure its findings were unimpeachable, he felt compelled to allow tobacco companies to rule out any members of whom they disapproved.
Saturday marks the report's 50th anniversary. The intervening decades have seen remarkable progress against smoking in the United States, despite the stubborn efforts of the tobacco industry, which lobbied, obfuscated and sometimes lied outright to the public about the dangers of its products. During those years, though, independent research tied smoking and secondhand smoke to an ever-wider range of ailments. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking causes cancer of the lungs, larynx, bladder, bone marrow, blood, esophagus, kidneys and several...
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