50th Anniversary of the First U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health

Statement by ASCO President Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP

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Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP

"Tobacco still kills more than 440,000 Americans each year and costs our economy close to $193 billion annually."

—Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP

“When the first Surgeon General’s Report was released in 1964, more than half of American men and over a third of women smoked and lung cancer had gone from an obscure disease to a leading cause of death. In issuing this pioneering report summarizing the known health risks of smoking, our nation’s researchers, policymakers, and physicians were galvanized to take bold action against one of public health’s greatest threats.

“In the 50 years since the report’s release, tobacco use has declined considerably. More research on the harmful effects of smoking, as well as the dangers of secondhand smoke, have raised awareness and discouraged large numbers of Americans from using tobacco. Most importantly, it has prompted federal, state and local government to pass laws regulating cigarettes, protecting Americans from secondhand smoke exposure and establishing excise taxes and other regulations that discourage teens from starting to use tobacco.

“Unfortunately, tobacco still kills more than 440,000 Americans each year and costs our economy close to $193 billion annually. We must continue to be vigilant in our fight against this deadly addiction. Our efforts to fight the largest preventable cause of death and disability cannot cease or diminish.

“Smoking cessation remains especially critical for cancer patients. Patients who continue smoking after a cancer diagnosis are at risk for worse treatment outcomes, increased cancer recurrence, second primary cancers, poor quality of life and more side effects than patients who do not smoke. It is crucial that tobacco cessation be integrated into daily oncology care and that smokers be given the necessary support and resources to quit. ASCO has issued recommendations on public policy needs, provider education, and research in this area and continues to collaborate with physicians and lawmakers to see that they are implemented. 

“We commend the office of the U.S. Surgeon General for its leadership and tireless efforts on this critically important public health issue. This milestone represents an opportunity to both celebrate accomplishments and reflect on the need for additional efforts to reduce tobacco-related morbidity and mortality. ASCO will continue to work with the medical community until tobacco-related disease is ultimately eliminated and fewer people die from its use.” ■

Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP




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