On January 11, 1964, the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Luther Terry, M.D. published the landmark report Smoking and Health: Report on the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States stating that smoking may be hazardous to one’s health.
The report sparked a national anti-smoking effort.
Back then, though smoking was reviled in some religious groups, it was socially acceptable to most.
Doctors did cigarette ads…
And even Santa got in on the act…
Frankly, I think everyone knew smoking was bad for you prior to the report. Long before 1964 cigarettes were called “coffin nails” and the term “smoker’s cough” was around.
The original American economy was largely based on tobacco. John Rolfe saved the colony of Virginia with the weed.
But, since the report, smoking and smokers have been looked at in a different light.
When I smoked, people would say, “You’re so smart, why do you smoke?”
The answers was easy, I was addicted.
Fortunately, after far too long, I was able to lay the habit down.
A year after the report came out in 1964 42.4% of the overall American population smoked. 51.9% of the males in the US did, 33.9% of females were smokers. The racial divide in smokers’ world was pretty even, 42% of whites smoked and 45% of blacks did too.
From 1965 to 2014, the rate of smokers in the US dropped to 16.8%. Obviously many people took note of the report, the ads, and the non-smoking campaigns.
Looking back at old newsreels, you see most newscasters with a cigarette or a pipe, and Congressional Hearings were quintessential “smoke filled rooms,” and Hollywood made it very, very glamorous.
…there were celebrity endorsements…
It’s not. It stinks, it’s expensive, and these days, smokers are social pariahs.
Surprisingly, the largest percentage of smokers today is the 25-44 year old group! The smallest, 65 and older!
The higher level your education, the less likely you are to smoke. Wonder what happened to all those professors with pipes?
The racial divide is about the same for blacks and whites. Asian –Americans and Hispanics smoke at a lower rate than the rest of the country and multiracial and American Native and Alaskan Natives tend to smoke at a higher rate of their population.
Geographically, it’s Midwesterners who burn more. Yeah, that shocked me too. I thought since most tobacco is from the south, it would be southerners who did. But then I remembered that Germantown when I was a kid had tons of tobacco farms and even had a tobacco barn in town. Much of its original economy was tobacco based at the onset of the community.
But, back to the report: Its conclusions were focused on the negative health effect of cigarette smoking. It found cigarette smokers had a 70% increase in age-corrected mortality rate; i.e. they died sooner.
Cigarette smoke was the primary cause of chronic bronchitis, and there was a correlation between smoking, emphysema, and heart disease.
And, smokers had a ten to twenty fold increase in lung cancer cases.
It also said the pregnant women who smoked tended to have underweight babies – that was actually considered positive by the committee!
The report also defined cigarette smoking as a habit. This may have stemmed from the fact that most of the committee were smokers and were uncomfortable calling it an addiction.
And, since people could quit, well, it was just a nasty habit.
With the onset of Dr. C. Everett Koop who deemed it an addiction, society was more sympathetic to those who were “trying to quit.”
Research was increased and nicotine replacement methods were developed, but when it all shook out, “cold turkey” was found to be the best method of quitting.
Though smoking was verboten at my house, at least one of my Aunts smoked, and all the Uncles did. My grandfather started smoking when he was seventy years old, he’d light a cigarette, lay the hand holding it on the big barber-shop ashtray he had and nod off. When the fire got to his fingers, he’d knock the ash off, take a drag, put it out and go back to sleep.
My Aunt Nette would say, “Charlie ain’t sinnin’ honey, he don’t inhale.”
She was the only one who got away with calling him Charlie, and I find it interesting that though she smoked a plenty, she considered it sinnin’.
Nowadays, sinnin’ has little to do with it. It’s expensive and socially unacceptable, none of the cool kids do it!