50th Anniversary of publication of ‘US Surgeon General’s Report’ that changed the public attitude to tobacco and smoking forever- update will re-published in US today

This week marks the 50th anniversary (11 Jan 1964) of the publication of the Surgeon General’s Report in the United States which officially highlighted, for the first time, the most serious health consequences associated with smoking.  An update to the original report will be released in the United States today.

The publication of the report received headlines all over the world, not just in the United States – and Surgeon General Luther L Terry said some 20 years later that the report “hit the country like a bombshell.  It was a front page news and a lead story on every radio and television station in the United States and abroad”.

Dr Ross Morgan, Chairman of ASH Ireland said today, “The key findings of the report, none of which have been challenged or contradicted, estimated that the average smoker had a 9 to 10 fold risk of developing lung cancer, compared to non-smokers, and that heavy smokers had at least a 20 fold risk.

The report went on to state that the risk of developing lung cancer rose with duration of smoking and diminished with the cessation of smoking.  The report named smoking as the most important cause of chronic bronchitis and also stated that there was a link between smoking and emphysema and smoking and coronary heart disease. The report also referred to the reduced average weight of new born babies, born to mothers who smoked.  Interestingly, it did not state that smoking was addictive, however, this is a matter that was later clarified by medical research and laterally, after much debate, by the Tobacco Industry itself.  One notable quote contained in Tobacco Industry documentation discovered during litigation in the United States said nicotine is addictive; “Moreover, nicotine is addictive. We are, then, in the business of selling nicotine, an addictive drug effective in the release of stress mechanisms.” July 17, 1963 report by then Brown & Williamson general counsel/vice president Addison Yeaman, Bates

Dr Ross Morgan went on to say, “This ground breaking report not only provided new and irrefutable medical evidence on the harm caused by smoking, but also commenced an informed public debate on smoking which thankfully is ongoing.  As early as 1968 a major survey in the United States highlighted the impact of the Terry report.  In 1958, only 44% of Americans believed that smoking caused cancer, while in 1968, 4 years after the report was published, 78% believed that smoking was a cause of cancer. The Terry report also led to almost immediate action by the US government, when in 1965 Congress required that all cigarette packs distributed should carry a health warning and this commenced the introduction of health warnings on cigarettes on a worldwide basis.  It is interesting that today we are rightly looking at the introduction of standardised packaging and graphic health warnings as the Tobacco Industry continue to use the design of the cigarette pack, as a way of marketing to young people and developing confusion with the use of colours, and slogans, in regard to the notion of there being a safer cigarette.”

Dr Morgan went on to say “All of us in the health sector, and indeed the wider population are indebted to the courage and determination of Dr Luther Terry.  He assembled a group of medical experts to assist him with his work and despite having to include the Tobacco Industry on his advisory committee, he courageously acknowledged, verified and published information which has saved thousands of lives on virtually every country on the planet.

It is important that we remember the work and courage of Dr Terry by continuing to state the facts about smoking and to inform the smoker and the potential smoker that if you smoke you will most likely die because of this, quite apart from the significant illness issues which emerge at one time or another for virtually every smoker.  Tragically 5,200 people die in this country every year from tobacco related disease so there is still much to be done in the fight against tobacco and nicotine addiction”.


For contact: ASH Ireland:  0818-305055

Wally Young, Young Communications:  087-2471520