American Cancer Society Marks 40th Anniversary of U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Smoking

American Cancer Society
Friday, 9 January 2004

Society Scientific Research Contributed to 1964 Report Officially Recognizing Cigarette Smoking/Cancer Connection

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Surgeon General's report on smoking and health. This landmark 1964 report was the first widely publicized official recognition that cigarette smoking is a cause of cancer and other deadly diseases. To mark the anniversary, the American Cancer Society is sponsoring activities to advocate for more smoke-free workplaces in 40 communities across the country. In addition, the Society is re-doubling its nationwide anti-tobacco efforts by supporting initiatives calling for higher tobacco excise taxes and increased funding for programs to help the approximately 46.5 million American smokers quit, and prevent nonsmokers from ever starting.

Interestingly, findings from the American Cancer Society's Hammond-Horn research study in 1952 and the 1959 Cancer Prevention Study 1 (CPS 1), formed the basis of the landmark Surgeon General's 1964 report. Both studies demonstrated a relationship between cigarette smoking and higher death rates from lung cancer and coronary heart disease in men and women.

In the decades following the release of the Surgeon General's report, efforts in the US to reduce the harmful health, social, and economic impacts caused by smoking are making a difference. Incidence and death rates from lung cancer, whose primary cause is smoking, continue to decrease in men and have leveled off in women. States with comprehensive tobacco control programs and increases in excise taxes have experienced substantial decreases in youth and adult smoking. "As a result of tobacco control, 44 million adults in the United States are former smokers," said John R. Seffrin, PhD., national chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. "But we must continue our efforts, because smoking still causes too many unnecessary premature deaths each year."

Before the first Surgeon General's report on the hazards of smoking, about half of adult Americans smoked. Today, that number is about 22 percent overall. According to the American Cancer Society, smoking kills 440,000 American men and women each year nearly one person every minute. In the United States, cigarette smoking alone causes approximately 30 percent of all cancer deaths, most from lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and chronic lung disease. In fact, more men and women die each year from smoking-related lung cancer than from prostate cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer combined. Smoking also contributes significantly to cancers of the stomach, bladder, larynx, cervix and breast. And youth smoking is on the rise. Statistics show that between 1991 and 1999, cigarette smoking among high school students rose substantially from 28 percent to 35 percent.

Through the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout and other year-round tobacco cessation programs and services including the Society's Quitline (offered in nine states), the American Cancer Society continues to inform people about the dangers of smoking and tobacco use and to save lives by providing the tools to help users quit.

"In the last 40 years we have seen tremendous advances in changing people's beliefs, perceptions and attitudes toward smoking," said Ralph B. Vance, MD, FACP, national volunteer president of the American Cancer Society. "We have come a long way from the days of smoke-filled conference rooms, airplanes, and even schools, but we must continue protecting adults and especially children from tobacco addiction."

The American Cancer Society is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by saving lives, diminishing suffering and preventing cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. Founded in 1913 and with national headquarters in Atlanta, the Society has 14 regional Divisions and local offices in 3,400 communities, involving millions of volunteers across the United States. For more information anytime, call toll free 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit

To view a copy of the Tobacco Control Timeline, please click the following link: Tobacco Control Timeline.

For more information, or to contact American Cancer Society, see their website at:

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