American Heart Association Joins Health Groups to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Tobacco

Washington, D.C., Jan. 8, 2014 The American Heart Association joined with six leading health groups today to honor the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on smoking and health, and to call for a commitment to three public health goals. The goals are – reducing smoking rates to less than 10 percent within 10 years; protecting all Americans from secondhand smoke within five years; and ending the health impacts, including heart disease and stroke, caused by tobacco addiction.

The other groups issuing the call to action are the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Legacy.

“In the half century that has passed since the landmark 1964 report, the American Heart Association’s commitment to protecting the health of all Americans from the scourge of tobacco has never wavered,” said Mariell Jessup, M.D., association president. “While we are proud of our accomplishments and the many lives saved, we cannot let our guard down for one minute when it comes to this public health epidemic. We must continue the fight at the federal, state and local levels until we make America 100 percent tobacco free.”

As examined in a new article, “The 50th Anniversary of the US Surgeon General’s Report on Tobacco:  What We’ve Accomplished and Where We Go From Here,” published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, erasing tobacco’s toll on our nation has long been a priority for the organization.

It began in 1956 when the association issued a public statement pointing to a connection between smoking and coronary heart disease. In a report four years later, the association cited growing evidence that smoking could contribute to or accelerate heart disease. In 1961, the association and other public health groups wrote to President John F. Kennedy asking for creation of a national commission on smoking. The panel that was established by the newly appointed Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry produced the groundbreaking 1964 report.

In the decades since, the American Heart Association has advocated for tighter federal regulation of tobacco products, higher tobacco taxes, passage of strong smoke-free laws, and fully funded state tobacco prevention and cessation programs. We have seen great progress. Sixty five percent of the population is now covered by smoke-free restaurant and bar laws. Cigarette sales have dropped sharply in states that raised the tax rate – the average state cigarette tax is now $1.53 per pack, up from 42 cents per pack in 2000.

But much more needs to be done. By building on the advances we’ve made, we can reduce the number of adult smokers to less than 10 percent of the population in 10 years and ensure that all Americans are protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke in five years. Meeting these goals will result in a dramatic drop in heart disease, stroke and the many other diseases caused by tobacco use. A reduction in exposure to secondhand smoke alone could mean 10,000 fewer deaths from heart disease each year and 20,000 fewer heart attacks each year.

“The American Heart Association has played an active role in the tobacco control movement over the past five decades, dedicating significant effort and resources toward changing public policy,” Jessup said. “As we mark this anniversary, we renew our commitment to eliminating the tobacco epidemic once and for all.”

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For media inquiries, please contact Retha Sherrod at 202-785-7929 or retha.sherrod@heart.org.      


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