Smoking and Health: The 1964 Surgeon General's Report as a Turning Point in the Anti-Smoking Movement

Harvard Health Policy Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 118-126, Spring 2001

9 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2006

See all articles by Michael Gene Housman

Michael Gene Housman

University of Pennsylvania - Health Care Systems Department

Abstract

This paper analyzes the Surgeon General's announcement on January 11, 1964 that cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action. Beginning with an analysis of the report itself, it discusses the fact that both newspapers and magazines predicted that the announcement would have almost no effect on the smoking behaviors of Americans at the time. Contrasting this, the announcement actually precipitated a major decline in smoking rates among Americans that has continued to the present day. To reconcile this fact, the paper explores this unexpected phenomenon and concludes that there were three factors that contributed to its much greater impact than that of other similar reports and papers: (1) The legitimacy and authority of the surgeon general's office; (2) the meticulous accumulation and aggregation of scientific evidence characterizing the report that resulted in the claim that a causal relationship existed; and (3) the widespread campaign that publicized the findings of the report.

Keywords: Smoking, Cigarettes, Surgeon General

Suggested Citation

Housman, Michael Gene, Smoking and Health: The 1964 Surgeon General's Report as a Turning Point in the Anti-Smoking Movement. Harvard Health Policy Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 118-126, Spring 2001, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=924000

Michael Gene Housman (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Health Care Systems Department ( email )

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