Big Tobacco Thinks He Was The “Worst Surgeon General Ever”… We Disagree.

Three U.S. surgeons general have played the biggest roles in alerting the public to the dangers of tobacco.

Dr. Jesse L. Steinfeld, 11th U.S. Surgeon General (1969-1973)

In 1964, Dr. Luther Terry issued the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, irrefutably linking smoking with lung disease and other illnesses. The report led to a sharp drop in smoking and to the first warning labels on cigarette packages.Seven years later, Dr. Jesse L. Steinfeld issued a second report focused on the dangers of secondhand smoke. He proposed what he called the Non-Smoker’s Bill of Rights, which said that the country must free non-smokers from the hazards and annoyance of other people’s addictions. He strengthened the warning on packages and issued the first ban on smoking in certain government buildings.

In the 1980s, Dr. C. Everett Koop accelerated the war against tobacco, producing the first ban on smoking in airplanes.

The tobacco industry considered Steinfeld’s actions so egregious that he was labeled the “worst surgeon general ever.” The industry lobbied vigorously for his removal and he became the first surgeon general ever forced out by the president.

Steinfeld died Tuesday at a nursing home in Pomona from the aftereffects of a stroke, according to his family. He was 87. He “was at the leading edge of the social changes we are all benefitting from today,” said UC San Francisco tobacco expert Stanton A. Glantz. “He started people thinking about the issue [of non-smoker’s rights] differently. Even getting partial smoking restrictions was a major accomplishment at the time.”

Terry’s report and other activities during the 1960s led Republicans — and some Democrats — to argue that surgeons general were intruding inappropriately into private life. Steinfeld called for a ban on smoking in virtually all public places, including restaurants, theaters, planes and trains. It took another 25 years for that to begin to be accomplished, however.

He also changed the warning labels on cigarette packages. After Terry’s report, the labels bore a warning that tobacco use “might” be connected to health problems. Steinfeld successfully changed the labels so that they read “The surgeon general has determined that smoking is hazardous to your health.” The warning label was also made larger, and tobacco advertising on television and radio was banned.

For the complete article from the LA Times, click HERE

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