News | Published February 16, 2014 | Written by James Gerardo, MD, PhD

Fifty years of progress: the new surgeon general report on smoking

Fifty years ago, in 1964, 42 percent of Americans were smokers when the United States Surgeon General released a report entitled “Smoking and Health,” the first report to directly link cigarette smoking to deadly conditions such as lung cancer and heart disease.


Fast forward to just a few weeks ago: the Surgeon General has released a new report, “The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress,” detailing the landscape of smoking in today’s world and the laundry list of changes that still need to be made in order to eradicate smoking within our society.


Today, the number of American smokers has decreased to 18 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but that still leaves a staggering 42 million smokers in our country.


According to the recent report, more than 20 million people have died prematurely from tobacco use in these last 50 years, and smoking remains the leading preventable cause of premature death in the U.S.


Additionally, the new report states that smoking has been casually linked to diseases of nearly all organs in the body, most recently including age-related macular degeneration, diabetes, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, adverse health outcomes in cancer patients and survivors, tuberculosis, erectile dysfunction, orofacial clefts in infants, ectopic pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, impaired immune function and increased risk for stroke for those with exposure to secondhand smoke.


Since the first report, tobacco control programs and policies have been proven to effectively control tobacco use, however, additional measures must be taken in order to continue making progress.


“We need to continue to protect our young adult population,” said James Gerardo, MD, PhD, cardiology, Mount Nittany Physician Group. “The report proves that tobacco advertising continues to persuade our children to smoke. We’ve made some progress through increases in cigarette prices and tax increases, but we need to do more.”


Providing assistance in the form of smoking cessation classes to those who are addicted to smoking has also proved beneficial.


“We’ve come so far in the last 50 years,” said Dr. Gerardo. “There are a number of programs and even medications out there today that can help smokers. Sometimes the hardest part is just taking the first step, but it’s important that patients know providers are here to help.”


To read the full report, please click here.


To learn more about smoking cessation options or to make an appointment with a cardiology physician, please contact Mount Nittany Physician Group Cardiology at 814.689.3140.



About the Author

James Gerardo, MD, PhD

James Gerardo, MD, Ph.D. is an interventional cardiologist with Mount Nittany Physician Group. More information on cardiac services is available at

Articles by Gerardo