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

Posted January 16, 2014

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. The report was the first from the federal government to document the link between smoking and cancer.

“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,” said ASCO President Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP. “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.”

Despite these successes, there is still much work to do. Tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death and premature disease, disability and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 43 million adults in the United States still smoke, and more than 440,000 die prematurely each year as a result of tobacco use. Additionally, we now know that continued tobacco use has been shown to be particularly harmful 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,” said Dr. Hudis. “It is crucial that tobacco cessation be integrated into daily oncology care and that smokers be given the necessary support and resources to quit.”

On January 17, the Surgeon General will be releasing a report, “50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report: The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress.” ASCO will be monitoring the report’s release and will report to its members the implications for cancer care in a future ASCO in Action article. The Surgeon General’s report can be found at: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports/50-years-of-progress/index.html.

In addition, ASCO strongly supports U.S. Senate Resolution 330, titled, "Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States." The resolution was introduced on January 13 and recognizes the 50th anniversary of the report, while noting the significant progress in reducing the public health burden of tobacco use and supporting an end to tobacco-related death and disease.

“This milestone represents an opportunity to both celebrate accomplishments and reflect on the need for additional efforts to reduce tobacco-related morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. Hudis. “ASCO will continue to work with the medical community until tobacco-related disease is ultimately eliminated and fewer people die from its use.”

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