The 50th anniversary of first Surgeon Generals warning on tobacco dangers was last month

by: KEVIN SPERL - Prineville's Barbara Lee is attending Mosaic Medical's tobacco cessation classes, held in conjunction with the Crook County Health Department. A smoker since she was 16, Lee's goal is to be smoke free by the end of February.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was president, the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Ford Mustang was introduced and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer aired for the first time.

The year was 1964.

It was also the year that then-Surgeon General Luther Terry issued the first report linking smoking to lung cancer in men.

This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of that report.

Dateline 1954: The Marlboro Cowboy debuted with the slogan, “Delivers the goods on flavor.”

According to the Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs, 511 billion cigarettes were smoked in 1964, with a daily average consumption of 11 cigarettes.

The 2014 report, the 32nd since 1964, issued by the acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, includes some additional, and equally grim, conclusions.

Smoking is now being linked to colorectal and liver cancer and an increased failure rate in treatment of all cancers. It is also known to cause increases in diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis and immune system weakness, risk for tuberculosis, ectopic (tubal) pregnancy and impaired fertility, cleft lip and cleft palates in babies of women who smoke during early pregnancy, erectile dysfunction, and age-related macular degeneration.

Secondhand smoke exposure is treated as a more serious medical issue as well, now known to cause strokes in people who do not smoke directly.

Dateline 1966: A health warning first appears on cigarette packs: “Caution-cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health.”

According to Kris Williams, tobacco prevention and education officer at the Crook County Health Department (CCHD), there is a proposal before the court to institute a tobacco free campus policy for all county-owned properties. Currently, the law prohibits smoking within 20 feet of any operable window or door, while the new proposal seeks to completely eliminate smoking on any county owned property.

“Two departmental surveys garnered almost 800 responses,” said Williams. “And the majority indicated that a smoke free policy was either somewhat or very important.”

In response, the department, in conjunction with Mosaic Medical, instituted its own smoke free campus at their 735 NW Beaver St. location, effective May, 2013.

“We have had absolutely no complaints, or pushback from clients or staff, “said Williams. “In fact, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Oregon ranks 26th in smoking, with 19 percent of its population using tobacco, compared to 18 percent nationwide.

The American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2014,” released on Jan. 22, also reports that Oregon received a grade of F for tobacco prevention, control program funding, and cessation coverage. The state did earn an A for its smoke free air improvements, but was given a D for implementation of cigarette taxes.

Carrie Nyssen, Regional Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific, said, “Oregon’s report card was decidedly mixed in the fight against tobacco use in 2013. We made some progress in protecting our citizens from tobacco-caused diseases like lung cancer and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) by providing additional funding for our state tobacco program.”

Adding that the state still has a lot to do with regards to tobacco use, Nyssen noted that the ALA reports that Oregon experiences 5,000 deaths annually due to tobacco use, costing the economy $2 billion in healthcare and lost productivity.

Dateline 1970: The cigarette pack warning label is changed to read: “The Surgeon General has determined that cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health.”

Dr. Laura Gratton, Health Officer for Crook County, added that, in 2012, 71 Crook County residents died from tobacco related causes.

“Tobacco use resulted in $13.4 million being spent on tobacco-related medical care,” she said, adding that 20 percent of birth mothers in the county reported smoking during pregnancy, compared with 11 percent statewide.

Although the CDC reports that cigarette use has been cut in half since 1964, 20 million Americans have died from smoking related causes and 42 million adults still smoke.

Dateline 1989: Congress bans smoking on all domestic flights.

Despite 50 years of progress towards more awareness of the dangers of tobacco use, Gratton feels that geographic areas such as Crook County are disproportionately targeted by the tobacco companies.

“The tobacco industry has a history of targeting specific communities, including rural and low income areas like Crook County, where they offer lower pricing, greater discounts and place more advertisements.” Gratton said. “As a result, 18 percent of adults in this county smoke.”

Dateline 2013: RJ Reynolds resumes magazine advertising for its Camel brand.

Thomas R. Frieden, Director of the CDC, remains optimistic.

“Most Americans who have ever smoked have already quit, and most smokers who still smoke want to quit,” he said.

To help those wanting to quit.

The Oregon Tobacco Quit Hotline provides free counseling, medications and Quit Guides to anyone, regardless of income. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit

The Crook County Health Department, in conjunction with Mosaic Medical, offers free tobacco cessation classes every Wednesday from 4 to 5 p.m. at 375 N.W. Beaver St., in Prineville. All are welcome and no signup is required. Call 541-447-5165 for more information.

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