Local view: After 50 years, smoking report still has impactThat landmark surgeon general’s report 50 years ago, in 1964, forever changed the public view of cigarettes and tobacco products.
By: Jim Skoog, for the News Tribune
Imagine people smoking in movie theaters, church basements and symphony concerts, and at my high school basketball games. Imagine the superintendent (my dad) smoking in his office and at public meetings. He did. When I graduated from McGregor High School in 1964, that’s the way it was.
Since then, the national smoking rate has dropped to about 20 percent, and smoking isn’t allowed in most workplaces and public places. The first surgeon general’s report on smoking in 1964 laid the groundwork for important public-health changes.
I am proud that in Duluth we have led the way with many firsts in tobacco prevention that contributed to bring our local smoking rate down to just over 14 percent. Duluth was one of the first cities in Minnesota to go smoke-free in bars and restaurants, the first to have smoke-free transit stops and bus shelters, the first to adopt a smoking-disclosure law for apartment rentals, and now the first to restrict the use of electronic cigarettes indoors or anywhere smoking is not allowed. Northeastern Minnesota also leads the way on tobacco-free college-campus policies; smoke-free rental policies, including for public and subsidized housing; and smoke-free foster-care policies the Legislature plans to take up as a statewide issue this session.
That landmark surgeon general’s report 50 years ago, in 1964, forever changed the public view of cigarettes and tobacco products. Long thought of as a harmless vice, smoking’s serious negative health effects were clearly illustrated for the first time by the report. Another 30 surgeon general reports have been released since then, producing growing evidence of health effects from smoking and secondhand-smoke exposure.
We need to continue to show the same kind of courage it took to release that first report. I encourage people to learn more about tobacco prevention and positive policy efforts by connecting with the local American Lung Association or your local public health department.
Jim Skoog was a St. Louis County public health educator for 36 years, now retired.