1964: First Surgeon General's Report

1ST SURGEON GENERAL'S REPORT

On January 11, 1964, 200 reporters were locked into the State Department's auditorium to hear a two hour briefing by surgeon general Dr. Luther L. Terry and a panel of experts. The measures were felt necessary because of the bold and closely-guarded conclusion reached in the brown paperback book titled Smoking and Health. In 1964 the US was a country where over 50% of adult males smoked, and where a multi-billion dollar industry seemed to hang by the book's astounding verdict: smoking causes cancer.

At the time, 46% of all Americans smoked; smoking was accepted in offices, airplanes and elevators, and TV programs were sponsored by cigarette brands.

Within 3 months of Terry's report, cigarette consumption had dropped 20%, but was soon to climb back.

"It was a very dramatic and courageous thing to do," said Joseph Califano, the top domestic policy aide to President Johnson.

But the Johnson Administration had enough on its plate, and didn't want to complicate more pressing issues by addressing the implications. "We wanted to get schools integrated, the voters' rights act passed, fair housing passed. And all of those things required us to take on the whole phalanx of Southern states," Califano said.

Smoking rates since 1965, from National Health Interview Surveys compiled by the U.S. Office on Smoking and Health.

% US Adult

  • Smokers in: %ALL % Men % Women
  • 1965 42.4 51.9 33.9
  • 1966 42.6 52.5 33.9
  • 1970 37.4 44.1 31.5
  • 1974 37.1 43.1 32.1
  • 1976 36.4 41.9 32.0
  • 1977 36.0 40.9 32.1
  • 1978 34.1 38.1 30.7
  • 1979 33.5 37.5 29.9
  • 1980 33.2 37.6 29.3
  • 1983 32.1 35.1 29.5
  • 1985 30.1 32.6 27.9
  • 1987 28.8 31.2 26.5
  • 1988 28.1 30.8 25.7
  • 1990 25.5 28.4 22.8
  • 1991 25.7 28.1 23.5


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  • 1996 Gene Borio, Tobacco BBS (212-982-4645). WebPage: http://www.tobacco.org).Original Tobacco BBS material may be reprinted in any non-commercial venue if accompanied by this credit

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