Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health kick-starts tobacco control efforts

Responding to pressure from public health organizations, President John F Kennedy authorizes Surgeon General Luther L Terry to convene an Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health.  After two years of reviewing more than 7,000 studies on smoking and health, Surgeon General Terry, issues the landmark report concluding that smoking increases the mortality rate of smokers. The report links smoking to increased risk of lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and coronary heart disease. While government officials had taken stances against smoking for at least a decade prior, the report is the first published stance by the U.S. government on tobacco use.  The Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health ultimately calls upon Congress to take “appropriate remedial action.”  This bold action from the U.S.’s leading medical authority kick-starts tobacco control movements across the U.S., including Illinois.

Subsequent Surgeon General reports would likewise boost smoke-free efforts in later decades. In 1986, U.S. Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, would issue the first U.S. government report on the dances of “involuntary smoking,” now known as secondhand smoke, which concluded that “the judgment can now be made that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke can cause disease, including lung cancer, in nonsmokers.” In 2006, the Surgeon General would update this report to declare that no level of exposure to secondhand smoke is safe.  These reports provided the definitive medical support to the movement that would lead to nearly 100 smoke-free laws passed in Illinois.