Medical Tuesday Blog
Where there’s smoke . . .
The Economist | From the print edition | Jan 11th 2014
It was the report that showed, without a whiff of doubt, that cigarettes kill. On January 11th 1964—a Saturday, so to not roil the stockmarket—Surgeon-General Luther Terry released a 387-page document entitled “Smoking and Health”. Ten scientists (all men; half smokers) analysed 7,000 studies to assess the effects of tobacco on the human body. Its conclusions were incendiary. “Cigarette smoking is causally related to lung cancer in men,” it said. (“The data for women,” it added, “point in the same direction.”)
The report clearly showed how smokers died younger (see chart 1). A year later, Congress required health warnings on every packet. Public understanding of the risks of smoking changed even faster. Ads in the 1950s had claimed that tobacco was good for you; after the report millions of Americans quit puffing. In the past 50 years cigarette consumption per adult has fallen by 72% (see chart 2). The report called smoking a habit, not an addiction. But apart from that, it hit the coffin nail on the head. Read the entire article in The Economist, subscription required . . .
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