This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the frist surgeon general’s report warning americans of the dangers of smoking.
Former Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry said in January 11th, 1964, “The strongest relationship between cigarette smoking was in the field of lung cancer and probably a causal relationship between heart disease and cigarette smoking.”
The American Medical Association estimates that since this annoucement, decades of anti-smoking awareness campaigns, and laws have helped about 8 million people extend their lives by an average about 20 years while 17.7 million deaths can be blamed on the habit in that time frame.
Health officials say fifty years ago, about 40% of the adults in America smoked. Now the numbers have dropped by more than half to about 19%.
But experts say, there is more work to be done. CDC director Thomas Frieden says, “It remains the leading preventable cause of death in this country.”
And lung cancer isn’t the only cancer threat. It can lead to others such as throat, stomach, kidney, bladder and more. And people who smoke are up to four times more likely to suffer a heart attack than nonsmokers.
Health officials say quitting is not out of reach. “Most Americans who have ever smoked have quit and you can quit too,” Frieden said.