January 2014: 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s landmark report

Anniversary marks progress, Missouri still has far to go

January 2014 marks 50 years since the now landmark Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health first sounded the alarm in the United States on smoking’s deadly link to cancer and other illnesses. The 1964 report was the first official evidence that smoking causes lung cancer.

Looking back, tremendous advancements have been made. We’ve “come a long way, baby,” as the once fashionable Virginia Slim billboards used to proclaim. Since 1964 the U.S. smoking rate has been reduced by half, and the Affordable Care Act now mandates insurance companies cover smoking cessation resources for those who want to quit. Importantly, there has been a cultural shift that means smoking is now the exception rather than the rule.

“So much has changed,” says Traci Kennedy, executive director of Tobacco Free Missouri. “Even twenty years ago, smoking was everywhere. It was not uncommon for people to smoke in a hospital or on an airplane. But that trend has changed and today more than a quarter of Missourians are covered by a smokefree ordinance. That means more Missourians than ever before have the freedom to earn a paycheck or enjoy a meal without having to worry about damaging their heart and lungs from secondhand smoke.”

However, Kennedy cautions there is still a long way to go. With 23% of adults still smoking, Missouri has one of the highest smoking rates in the country (MO DHSS CLS 2011) Missouri also has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation at $0.17.

With the 50th anniversary of the report, health advocates remind Missourians that it is never to late for those who want to quit, and the New Year is a great time to start. Counselors from the Missouri Tobacco Quitline can help, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or enroll for free help at https://www.quitnow.net/missouri/ .

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