The fight to stop the tobacco industry’s dangerous hold on our country’s health is ever-changing and demands strong, comprehensive public policy change.
50 Years of Tobacco Control Drastically Reduces the Scourge of Tobacco
8 million. That's the number of lives saved due in large part to tobacco control efforts since the 1964 Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health, according to a study released in JAMA this week. We've made incredible progress since Surgeon General Luther Terry released that report 50 years ago this Saturday, but we still have work to do to curb the tobacco epidemic that continues to cause disease and death in our country. The American Cancer Society together with its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, have been leaders in the fight against tobacco for decades. In fact, the 1964 Surgeon General's report drew heavily from findings in the American Cancer Society-funded Hammond-Horn study, the first large-scale study that examined the effect of cigarette smoking on death rates from cancer and other diseases.
In the 50 years since the release of the report, this country has made strides in curbing the burden of disease and death caused by tobacco use. In 1964, the smoking rate in America was 42 percent. We've managed to cut that by more than half to about 19 percent today in large part because of the tobacco control laws that have been passed. Fifty years ago, smoking was allowed on every commercial flight and there was no such thing as a smoke-free restaurant. Today, smoking is banned on airplanes and in most airports, and almost 50 percent of the country is protected by a smoke-free law that covers bars, restaurants and workplaces. Fifty years ago, cigarette manufacturers could use cartoons and television ads to entice kids to smoke. Today, flavors that are appealing to kids are banned in cigarettes and cigarette TV ads and advertising near schools are no longer allowed. In 1964, there were no taxes on cigarettes. Today, the average cigarette tax nationwide is $1.53 per pack, up 92 cents per pack since the end of 2002.
With the progress we've made, we're winning the fight against tobacco. But, we can't rest on past progress. The tobacco industry continues to oppose proven tobacco control efforts, challenge tobacco control policies in court, manipulate products to get around existing regulations, produce and promote new tobacco products and spend billions of dollars on marketing to deceive the public and to addict more kids. ACS CAN is committing to continuing to fight back with what we know works to help people quit and keep kids from starting: comprehensive smoke-free laws, frequent and consistent increases in tobacco taxes and fully funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Without further action, tobacco use will remain the most preventable cause of death in this country, killing 443,000 Americans and costing $96 billion in health care costs every year.