The Surgeon General's Report at 50: Not a Golden Anniversary

Jan 10, 2014, 08:00 ET from Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society

New film on smoking may be hazardous to viewers' preconceptions

TUSCALOOSA, Ala., Jan. 10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- While public health officials across the US celebrate the 50th anniversary this month of the landmark Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health, a veteran anti-smoking activist argues in a provocative new documentary that efforts to reduce smoking have become more symbol than substance.

Blowing Smoke: The Lost Legacy of the Surgeon General's Report, a film by Alan Blum, MD, director of The University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society, chronicles what Blum calls "the persistent foot-dragging, fear, and squandering of funds by public health agencies, universities, and medical associations alike in ending the smoking pandemic."

In releasing the Surgeon General's Report on January 11, 1964, Dr. Luther Terry declared, "Cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance to warrant appropriate remedial action."

But according to Blum, such action has been insufficient to outwit Altria, maker of Marlboro. "Dr. Terry's indictment of cigarettes should have marked the beginning of the end of the Marlboro Man. Yet far from riding off into the sunset, the tobacco industry is riding high in the saddle."

"The 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General's report should be a sober reminder of missed opportunities to curtail cigarette smoking, which remains the nation's number one avoidable cause of cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and high health costs. When nearly all government funding to fight smoking is spent on research that adds little to what we knew in 1964. It suggests that the most addictive thing about tobacco is money."

Watch "Blowing Smoke" online: Running time: 23 minutes
Bonus features:

Alan Blum, MD, founded the international physicians' anti-smoking organization Doctors Ought to Care (DOC) [1977-2002]. As editor of the Medical Journal of Australia and the New York State Journal of Medicine, he published the first-ever medical-journal theme issues on tobacco. 

The Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society holds the most comprehensive collection on the tobacco industry and anti-smoking activism. Two Center exhibitions on the Surgeon General's Report are at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin and the Texas Medical Center Library in Houston through June.

SOURCE Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society