Edited by Gerald Boerner



JerryPhoto_thumb2_thumbOur country today has been beset by the endemic if not epidemic spread of health maladies — Cancer (of various types), obesity, AIDS, and smoking. The nation’s medical establishment has set out, under the leadership of the Surgeon General, to bring these health hazards under control. The National Institutes of Health research is funding on-going research on the causes and cures for cancer and AIDS. But in 1964, the Surgeon General, Luther Terry, took a bold move — he organized a group of advisors who came up with a revolutionary recommendation, a WARNING LABEL was needed on all tobacco products!

Smoking and health cover

This elicited the expected reaction from the tobacco companies who questioned the government’s right to require such a notice. They fought it, but lost. Presently, there is a move to require more graphic warnings on tobacco products, especially cigarettes. Once more, the tobacco companies are battling against this requirement. But it will go through.

But is this a deterrent to the smoking habit? Not really. Smoking is an addictive habit that is often started early in life. Of course, the tobacco companies promote that. But cigarette commercials were banned early from children’s hours of TV watching. Radio and billboards were also banned. Smoking in movies and on TV has also been discouraged. But people still smoke.

Cities and states have passed laws, such as California’s Proposition 65 approved by the people in 1986, in an attempt to stem the tide of the habit. Smoking has been banned within buildings, restaurants, bars, etc. Designated smoking areas have been established outside to be used even in inclement weather. These bans have been extended to some apartments and homes on the basis of the dangers from “second-hand” smoke. Where will this all end? Who knows. Habits are hard to break and we can only assume that limiting and punitive measures will continue to be imposed, hoping that finally a solution will be reached.

Now, we need the same zeal to be brought against AIDS and other maladies. Obesity is much harder to legislate, but even there efforts have been started to require school lunches to be “healthy”. The battle really begins there in defining what is a healthy diet? But that is a topic for another day.

Let us now turn our attention to the action of Surgeon General Luther Terry and his warning label on cigarette packages… GLB

These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved

[ 2973 Words ]


Quotations Related to Cigarettes:

[ http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/cigarette.html ]


“Fame is being asked to sign your autograph on the back of a cigarette packet.”
— Billy Connolly

“I never smoked a cigarette until I was nine.”
— H. L. Mencken

“I met the surgeon general – he offered me a cigarette.”
— Rodney Dangerfield

“I kissed my first girl and smoked my first cigarette on the same day. I haven’t had time for tobacco since.”
— Arturo Toscanini

“I did that for 40 years or more. I never had any writer’s block. I got up in the morning, sat down at the typewriter – now, computer – lit up a cigarette.”
— Frederik Pohl

“I have a punishing workout regimen. Every day I do 3 minutes on a treadmill, then I lie down, drink a glass of vodka and smoke a cigarette.”
— Anthony Hopkins

“I think George just nailed the whole thing, the whole time period, the whole look and feel of what that newsroom was like. I did a lot of research for the role and believe me, it’s all pretty genuine, down to the very last cigarette butt.”
— David Strathairn

“I busted out of the place in a hurry and went to a saloon and drank beer and said that for the rest of my life I’d never take a job in a place where you couldn’t throw cigarette butts on the floor. I was hooked on this writing for newspapers and magazines.”
— Jimmy Breslin


Luther Terry: Surgeon General’s Smoking Warning…


Luther_Terry_photo_portrait_as_surgeon_generalLuther Terry
(15 September 1911 – 29 March 1985) was an American physician and public health official. He was appointed the ninth Surgeon General of the United States from 1961 to 1965, and is best known for his warnings against the dangers of and the impact of tobacco use on health.

Although there had always been an awareness of the negative health effects of smoking, it was not until the 1950s that evidence began to be published suggesting that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer and other diseases. At the end of the decade, the Royal College of Physicians in Britain appointed a committee to investigate the relationship between smoking and health. The committee’s report, issued on March 7, 1962, clearly indicated cigarette smoking as a cause of lung cancer and bronchitis and argued that it probably contributed to cardiovascular disease as well.

Shortly after the release of this report, Terry established the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health, which he chaired, to produce a similar report for the United States. Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States, released on January 11, 1964, concluded that lung cancer and chronic bronchitis are causally related to cigarette smoking. The report also noted out that there was suggestive evidence, if not definite proof, for a causative role of smoking in other illnesses such as emphysema, cardiovascular disease, and various types of cancer. The committee concluded that cigarette smoking was a health hazard of sufficient importance to warrant appropriate remedial action.

In June 1964, the Federal Trade Commission voted by a margin of 3-1 to require that cigarette manufacturers "clearly and prominently" place a warning on packages of cigarettes effective January 1, 1965, stating that smoking was dangerous to health, in line with the warning issued by the Surgeon General’s special committee. The same warning would be required in all cigarette advertising effective July 1, 1965.


FDA proposes cigarette warning labels…  (2:06)




Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee
to the Surgeon General of the United States

Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States was a landmark report published on January 11, 1964 by the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health, chaired by then-Surgeon General of the United States Luther Terry regarding the negative health effects of smoking. While not the first such declaration by an official of the United States of America, it is notable for being arguably the most famous, and certainly had lasting and widespread effects on the tobacco industry and on the worldwide perception of smoking.

Smoking and health coverCover page of the report on smoking and health

The health effects of tobacco had been debated by users, medical experts, and governments alike since its introduction to European culture. Hard evidence for the ill effects of smoking became apparent with the results of several long-term studies conducted in the early to middle twentieth century, and on June 12, 1957, then-Surgeon General Leroy Burney "declared it the official position of the U.S. Public Health Service that the evidence pointed to a causal relationship between smoking and lung cancer.” This was followed by a committee of the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Physicians issuing a report on March 7, 1962, "clearly indicted cigarette smoking as a cause of lung cancer and bronchitis and argued that it probably contributed to cardiovascular disease as well.” After pressure from the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the National Tuberculosis Association, and the American Public Health Association, President John F. Kennedy authorized Surgeon General Terry’s creation of the Advisory Committee. The committee met from November 1962 to January 1964 and analyzed over 7,000 scientific articles and papers.


The report’s conclusions were almost entirely focused on the negative health effects of cigarette smoking. It found cigarette smokers had a seventy percent increased mortality rate, that cigarette smoke was the primary cause of chronic bronchitis, and showed a correlation between smoking, emphysema, and heart disease. In addition, it reported a causative link between smoking and a ten- to twentyfold increase in the occurrence of lung cancer, as well as a positive correlation between pregnant women who smoke and underweight newborns.

Like the World Health Organization during this period, but possibly influenced by the fact that they were themselves smokers, the Committee defined cigarette smoking as a "habituation" rather than an overpowering "addiction.” Committee members agreed with most Americans that this habit (though often strong) was possible for individuals to break. In the years after the Surgeon General’s report, millions of Americans successfully choose to quit smoking, with two-thirds to three-quarters of ex-smokers quitting unaided by nicotine replacement methods. In addition, the "cold turkey" method has been found to be the most successful in terms stopping smoking over long periods of time. However in a controversial move in 1989, later surgeon general C. Everett Koop shifted course and redefined cigarette smoking as "an addiction" rather than a habit.


The report’s publication had wide effects across the United States and the world. It was deliberately published on a Saturday to minimize the negative effect on the American stock markets, while maximizing the coverage in Sunday newspapers. It led to policy and public opinion changes such as warning labels and restrictions on advertising, large scale anti-smoking campaigns, and questioning from the tobacco industry.

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Proposition 65

Proposition 65 (formally titled "The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986") is a California law passed by direct voter initiative in 1986 by a 63%-37% margin. Its goals are to protect drinking water sources from toxic substances that cause cancer and birth defects and to reduce or eliminate exposures to those chemicals generally, for example in consumer products, by requiring warnings in advance of those exposures. It is administered by Cal/EPA’s California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). Proposition 65 regulates substances officially listed by California as causing cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm in two ways. The first regulatory arm of Proposition 65 prohibits businesses from knowingly discharging listed substances into drinking water sources, or onto land where the substances can pass into drinking water sources. The second regulatory arm of Proposition 65 prohibits businesses from knowingly exposing individuals to listed substances without providing a clear and reasonable warning.

Since enactment, Proposition 65 has been the reason for reformulation of numerous consumer products to eliminate toxic chemicals covered by Proposition 65, as well as other significant changes to reduce exposures such as toxic air emissions. In some cases consumer products have been relabeled to show specific toxic ingredients, but reformulation has been far more common. An official list of covered substances is maintained and made publicly available. Entries are added or removed based on current scientific information. All substances listed show their known risk factors, a unique CAS chemical classification number, the date they were listed, and, if so, whether they have been delisted.

Proposition 65 remained politically controversial for well over a decade after it passed, in large part because, in effect, it put the burden of proof on business instead of government to make a key scientific determination about safety levels for specific chemicals. This unique shift gave businesses an incentive to cooperate with government in setting exposure limits to specific chemicals. When the California Environmental Protection Agency conducted a five-year review of the law in 1992, it found that "By federal standards, Proposition 65 has resulted in 100 years of progress in the areas of hazard identification, risk assessment, and exposure assessment.

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Warning label

The following warning language is standard on products sold in California if they contain chemicals on the Proposition 65 list and the amount of exposure caused by the product is not within defined safety limits.

WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.

The wording can be changed as necessary, so long as it communicates that the chemical in question is known to the state to cause cancer, or birth defects or other reproductive harm. For exposures from other sources, such as car exhaust in a parking garage, a standard sign might read: "This area contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, or birth defects or other reproductive harm".

Some businesses in the state post similar notices on their premises, even when they have not evaluated the actual level of risk from a listed chemical they know is present. Warning signs are often posted at gas stations, hardware suppliers, grocery stores, drug stores, medical facilities, and many other businesses. Government agencies, parking garages, hotels, apartment complexes, retail stores, banks, and restaurants also post warning signs because of the possibility of hazardous chemicals being present in everyday items or the nearby environment. Some large businesses, such as utility companies, mail a Prop 65 notice to all customers each year to warn them of dangerous substances like natural gas or the sand used in sandblasting.

There is no penalty for posting an unnecessary warning sign. Because of the overuse of the vague warning, the ubiquitous signs ultimately communicate very little information to the end user. This problem has been recognized by California courts, advocates, and businesses.


Political controversy over the law, including industry attempts to have it preempted by federal law, have died down. However, enforcement actions remain controversial. Most of the Proposition 65 complaints are filed on behalf of straw man plaintiffs by private attorneys, some of whose businesses are built entirely on filing Proposition 65 lawsuits.

Labeling requirements conceded the reality that listing and classifying substances did not help the consumer if the contents of a purchase were unknown. At the same time, there were no other labeling requirements to support the proposition. Industry critics and corporate defense lawyers charge that Proposition 65 is "a clever and irritating mechanism used by litigious NGOs and others to publicly spank politically incorrect opponents ranging from the American gun industry to seafood retailers, etc.”

In addition, because the law allows private citizens to sue and collect damages from any business violating the law, there have been cases of lawyers and law firms using Proposition 65 to force monetary settlements out of California businesses. The Attorney General’s office has cited several instances of settlements where plaintiff attorneys received significant awards without providing for environmental benefit to the people of California, resulting in the requirement of the Attorney General’s approval of pre-trial Proposition 65 settlements. The Attorney General also objected to efforts in settlements between private parties to preempt the Attorney General’s right and duty to protect the public interest against future violations.

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Surgeon General Outlines Risks of Just One Cigarette…  (6:57)



Please take time to further explore more about Luther Terry, Surgeon General of the United States, Surgeon General’s Warning Label (United States of America), Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States, California Proposition 65, Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, National Institutes of Health, and the American Cancer Society by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below. In most cases, the text in the body of this post has been selectively excerpted from the articles; footnotes and hyperlinks have been removed for readability…





Other Events on this Day:

  • In 1755…
    Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is born in the West Indies. He helped launch the Constitution with the Federalist Papers and put this nation on a firm financial footing and he led the Federalist Party and opposed Thomas Jefferson in most matters.

  • In 1775…
    Francis Salvador takes his seat in the South Carolina Provincial Congress as the first Jewish elected official in the American colonies. Known as the Paul Revere of the South, Salvador will also be the first recorded Jewish casualty of the American Revolution, as the leader of a militia ambushed by a group of Loyalists and Cherokees on Aug. 1, 1776.

  • In 1785…
    Congress relocates from Trenton, New Jersey, to New York City, the nation’s new temporary capital.

  • In 1861…
    Alabama secedes from the Union.

  • In 1902…
    Henry Haven Windsor publishes Popular Mechanics magazine for the first time, with the aim of making scientific and technological advances accessible for the average person. The monthly periodical currently has a circulation of over 1.2 million readers.

  • In 1908…
    President Theodore Roosevelt declares over 800,000 acres of Arizona’s Grand Canyon to be a national monument, one of the many national monuments, parks and wildlife refuges created during his presidency. The Grand Canyon becomes a national park in 1919.

  • In 1964…
    U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry reports that smoking can cause lung cancer and other diseases; it is the first official government announcement that smoking is dangerous to one’s health.

  • In 1964…
    Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire is the first record to make it to the top of Billboard’s Country Album chart.


Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)


Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Luther Terry…

Wikipedia: Surgeon General of the United States…

Wikipedia: Surgeon General’s Warning Label (United States of America)…

Wikipedia: Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee… 

Wikipedia: California Proposition 65…

Wikipedia: Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act…

Wikipedia: National Institutes of Health…

Wikipedia: American Cancer Society…

Brainy Quote: Cigarette Quotes…


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