U.S. surgeon general reports that smoking causes lung cancer in 1964
Scientists declare that cigarette smokers are 10 times more likely to die of lung cancer than nonsmokers. The report was the first of a series of steps by the government to diminish the negative impact of smoking on Americans.
In the 150,000-word report, a committee indicated cigarette smoking as the chief cause of lung cancer in men and contributes to chronic bronchitis in men and women.
(Originally published by the Daily News on Jan. 12 1964. This story was written by Michael O’Neill.)
Washington, Jan. 11 (News Bureau) - A government-sponsored committee of scientists formally declared today that cigarette smoking is a “health hazard” to the nation which calls for “remedial action.”
In a hard-hitting, 150,000-word report, they indicted cigarettes as the chief cause of lung cancer in men, “the most important cause” of chronic bronchitis in men and women, and a cause of cancer of the larynx.
The blue-ribbon panel declared that male cigarette smokers get 70% more fatal heart attacks than non-smokers. Although smoking hasn’t been nailed down as a direct cause, the experts said it would be “more prudent” to assume this than “to suspend judgement until no uncertainty remains.”
The 10-man committee also declared that research suggests an “association” between cigarette smoking and cancer of the esophagus and bladder, the crippling lung disease emphysema, peptic ulcers, and premature babies. And it said pipe smoking has been established as a cause of lip cancer.
Nothing to the Good
The committee said there was no evidence that filters are effective in reducing the health hazard. It also said it could find “no basis” for concluding that smoking has beneficial effects that should be weighed against the hazards for the general population.
The massive report, a 14 month analysis of hundreds of thousands of research findings was made public at a klieg-lighted press conference amid considerable fanfare and extraordinary security precautions to prevent advanced leaks.
Dr. Luther L. Terry, surgeon general of the Public Health Service, called the study “the most comprehensive compilation and analysis ever undertaken” of the smoking-health controversy. He promised to “move promptly” to decide what remedial measures the service should take.
Meanwhile, however, he said he would “advise anyone to discontinue smoking” or, if he continues, to recognize “the health hazard.”
Terry indicated that any government action would probably be some kind of educational campaign. But he declined to be specific until the Public Health Service and other government agencies had a chance to study the committee report.
The report detailed numerous animal experiments that showed seven different components of tobacco smoke and tars were cancer-causing. Studies of patients, the committee went on, had shown “that many kinds of damage to body functions and to organs, cells, and tissues occur more frequently and severely in smokers.”
Out of 29 large scale studies of smoking histories, the experts said all but one (dealing with women) showed more cigarette smokers than nonsmokers among lung cancer patients. Chronic cough, breathlessness, chest illness; and decreased lung function all “consistently show that these occur more often in cigarette smokers than in nonsmokers.”
Says It’s Clear
For chronic bronchitis and emphysema, the committee said, the death rate for cigarette smokers is 500% higher than for non-smokers. For lung cancer, the risk is 1,000% higher. And for coronary heart disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer, the increased risk is 70%.
“The array of information,” said the experts, “... clearly establishes an association between cigarette smoking and substantial higher death rates.”
In general, the committee said, “the greater the number of cigarette smoked daily, the higher the death rate.” The increased risk of 70% for those who smoke from 10 to 19 cigarettes a day; 90% for those smoking 20 to 39 a day; and 120% for those smoking 40 or more.
There is also apparently some value to smokers in stopping. The experts said the evidence showed that smokers who stopped smoking before enrolling in seven key studies had a 30% lower death rate than those who did not quit.
Men who began smoking before 20, the experts reported, had a “substantially higher death rate” than those who began after 25. And the hazards are greater for inhalers than noninhalers.
In the case of lung cancer, which has been soaring in the U.S., the committee said “the magnitude of the effects of cigarette smoking far outweighs all other factors.” The findings for women are less striking, but the committee said they “point in the same direction.”
The lung cancer risk for pipe and cigar smokers is greater than for nonsmokers, according to the report, but much, much less than for cigarette smokers.
Cigarette smoking is not only the “most important” cause of chronic bronchitis, the committee said, but also “increase the risk of dying from chronic bronchitis and emphysema.”