On January 11, 1964, U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry made public a report that clearly connected tobacco smoking to lung cancer. 2014 marks the 50 th anniversary of his famous report.
Nearly all Vertical Thought readers will have grown up during a time when the connection between smoking and lung cancer seemed totally obvious. But that was not the perception prior to 1964—so what changed?
For centuries, smoking was promoted as having positive benefits: to calm nerves, to increase energy levels, to aid digestion and so forth. Shortly after WWII many in the health industry began to notice a troubling link between lung cancer incidents and those who smoked.
In the late 1950’s there were other reports from prior Surgeon Generals, in health journals and even mainstream magazines that cited the impact of heavy smoking on cancer rates. But those reports didn’t change the habits of smokers.
Efforts to reduce smoking were minimized by the tobacco industry’s pervasive advertising, the addition of filters on cigarettes and an aggressive public relations campaign to discredit research connecting smoking and cancer.
The lung cancer connection
Amidst mounting pressure in 1962, Surgeon General Terry announced that he was convening an expert panel to examine all of the evidence and issue a comprehensive report.
What made this report different was that Dr. Terry let the tobacco industry veto any proposed member of the panel they believed was too biased against them. Two years later, and in spite of the efforts of the tobacco industry, the Surgeon General’s committee did find overwhelming evidence linking smoking to lung cancer. Additionally the committee said that filters on cigarettes did little to mitigate the inhalations of cancer causing toxins.
In subsequent years, the U.S. Congress added to the impact of the Surgeon General’s report by passing laws requiring cigarette packs to carry a health warning label, requiring anti-smoking public service announcements on television and radio, and by restricting various types of cigarette advertising.
In the past five decades other laws have been passed prohibiting smoking on airplanes and restaurants, banning the use of cigarette machines, restricting the sale of cigarettes to minors and increasing tax rates on the sale of cigarettes.
Finally, in 1998 the tobacco industry admitted the connection between smoking and cancer rates as part of a 200 billion dollar settlement with 40 states that had brought lawsuits seeking compensation for the costs of smoking related illnesses.
Why you shouldn’t smoke
Despite the overwhelming evidence of harmful effects, smoking and cigarette sales continue. The U.S. Center for Disease Control estimates that more than 400,000 people die prematurely each year from smoking related health issues. Vertical Thought and her sister publications have published extensively about why a Christian should not smoke. Here’s a sample:
If you smoke, start stopping now. The human body is an incredible creation that God equipped to begin its own healing—and that process starts as soon as harmful tobacco smoke stops entering the lungs.
If you smoke marijuana many of the same negative effects— plus others that are even worse —are present there as well. In spite of several states in the U.S. legalizing the smoking of marijuana, the negative effects remain, just as with cigarette smoking.
God expects you to take care of His creation, and that extends to even your own body.
“For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s,” (1 Corinthians 6:20 1 Corinthians 6:20For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
American King James Version×, NKJV).
Your physical life is of great value to God. Follow the advice of countless U.S. Surgeon Generals: don’t smoke!