About Us

50th Anniversary of the Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health

In January 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General’s office released its first report on smoking and health, a comprehensive scientific review which identified cigarettes as a major public health hazard. Fifty years later, the impacts of that landmark document are still being felt. Dr. Luther L. Terry, who served as Surgeon General at the time of the report’s release later recalled that it “hit the country like a bombshell.”

The report quickly shifted public attitudes about smoking. Within months, the Federal Trade Commission ordered cigarette manufacturers to place a warning label on their products. In 1969, cigarette advertising on American TV and radio was banned.

Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking & Health—50th Anniversary: 1964-2014

Since the initial report, adult smoking rates have been cut in half. However, tobacco remains a major killer of Americans. Smoking - which is linked to 11 different types of cancer, chronic lung disease and heart disease - remains the leading cause of preventable and premature death in this country.

Dr. Charles LeMaistre served on the advisory panel that issued the first Surgeon General report on smoking. He later went on to become MD Anderson’s second full-time president. Over the past five decades, we’ve expanded our commitment to combat lung cancer. Our efforts have included:

  • Launch of the Moon Shots Program in 2012, an unprecedented effort to dramatically accelerate scientific discoveries into clinical advances that reduce cancer deaths. Lung cancer is one of the initial cancers being targeted by the program.
  • In 2008, MD Anderson established the Duncan Family Institute for Cancer Prevention and Risk to study how to predict and reduce cancer risk. Tobacco research is a major focus of the institute.
  • Starting in 2000, funds from   the National Cancer Institute and the George and Barbara Bush Endowment for Innovative Cancer Research helped MD Anderson establish ASPIRE (A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience). ASPIRE is an evidence-based, multimedia tobacco prevention and cessation program for middle and high school kids.
  • In 1986, MD Anderson President Charles LeMaistre served as president of the American Cancer Society.
  • In 1980, MD Anderson’s Dr. Ellen R. Gritz, Ph.D, contributed to the Surgeon General’s Report on women and smoking.

A full timeline of MD Anderson’s anti-smoking efforts can be found here. 

In the years ahead, MD Anderson will continue to expand our efforts to curb smoking and combat lung cancer. In summer 2014, MD Anderson unveiled the details of the End Tobacco plan, an aggressive campaign to curb smoking and prevent disease.


Watch our short video (2:38) on the on-going efforts to curb smoking and tobacco use to combat lung cancer. 

Infographic of Smoking's 50-year decline (PDF