History

On this day, January 11, 1964, U.S. Surgeon General announces definitive link between smoking and cancer

United States Surgeon General Luther Terry knew his report was a bombshell. He intentionally chose to release it on January 11, 1964, a Saturday, so as to limit its immediate effects on the stock market.

It was on this date that, on behalf of the U.S. Government, Terry announced a definitive link between smoking and cancer. The link had long been suspected.

Anecdotal evidence had always pointed to negative health effects from smoking, and by the 1930s physicians were noticing an increase in lung cancer cases.

The first medical studies that raised serious concerns were published in Great Britain in the late 1940s. American cigarette companies spent much of the next decade lobbying the government to keep smoking legal and advertising reduced levels of tar and nicotine in their products.

44 percent of Americans already believed smoking caused cancer by 1958, and a number of medical associations warned that tobacco use was linked with both lung and heart disease.

Despite all this, nearly half of Americans smoked, and smoking was common in restaurants, bars, offices, and homes across the country. Dr. Terry commissioned the report in 1962, and two years later he released the findings, titled Smoking and Health, which stated a conclusive link between smoking and heart and lung cancer in men.

The report also stated the same link was likely true for women, although women smoked at lower rates and therefore not enough data was available.

Source: history.com

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