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AP WAS THERE: '64 US report ties smoking to cancer

Tuesday - 1/14/2014, 3:40pm  ET

Frank Carey
Associated Press Science Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- EDITOR'S NOTE -- On Jan. 11, 1964, AP Science Writer Frank Carey covered the release of U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry's historic report linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer. The report has been called one of the most important documents in U.S. public health history. While not the first to raise the alarm about smoking, it gave momentum to the push for tobacco controls. The surgeon general has periodically issued more smoking reports, and a new one is due out next week. Fifty years after its original publication, the AP is making this story available to its subscribers.


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Heavy cigarette smoking is the principal cause of cancer of the lungs and the larynx and a health hazard so grave as to call for remedial action, a blue-ribbon science panel concluded today.

The nature of that action was not spelled out. However, Surgeon General Luther Terry of the U.S. Public Health Service said his agency will move promptly to recommend specific steps of the kind urged by the science group. Meanwhile, he told a news conference: "I would advise anyone to discontinue smoking cigarettes."

The 10-man special advisory committee on smoking and health took 14 months to evaluate more than 8,000 studies of the effect of smoking on health.

It undertook no fresh research but decided available evidence shows that cigarette smoking far outweighs all other causes of lung cancer and cancer of the larynx -- in men and perhaps in women.

It had no such clear-cut indictment of cigarette smoking in the area of heart and blood vessel disease or lesser aliments sometimes associated with smoking.

But, broadly, the panel took the view that the more you smoke the more you risk early death.

The special group was not requested to make specific recommendations for laws or regulations to offset smoking hazards but it concluded: "Cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action."

After releasing the report, Terry declared that there will be "no footdragging" in seeking possible remedial steps.

In another major conclusion the committee of scientists said: "In view of the continuing and mounting evidence from many sources, it is the judgment of the committee that cigarette smoking contributes substantially to mortality from certain specific diseases and to the over-all death rate. "

The report, which ran to about 150,000 words and several hundred pages, hit hardest at cigarette smoking as being what it termed a significant cause of lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and cancer of the larynx, or voice box. The committee was more reserved in linking cigarette smoking with heart disease and circulatory disorders, at least as to any cause-and-effect relationship.

The report said in this respect: "Male cigarette smokers have a higher death rate from coronary artery disease than non-smoking males, but it is not clear that the association has causal significance." But it said also that an association has been established between cigarette smoking in men and higher rates of coronary disease, and it asserted: "It is . more prudent to assume that the established association between cigarette smoking and coronary disease has a causative meaning than to suspend judgment until no uncertainty remains." As for lung cancer, the report said that in men, cigarette smoking far outweighs other possible causes of the malady and "the data for women, though less extensive, point in the same direction."

" It said the risk of developing lung cancer for pipe smokers and cigarette smokers is greater than for nonsmokers "but much less than for cigarette smokers." For various specific diseases, Terry said in a statement, the committee's findings were that cigar and pipe smoking have little significance in comparison with cigarettes.

But while it found much physical menace in smoking, the committee reported that there are benefits in the area of mental health and ease, saying "the habit originates in a search for contentment."

As regards other diseases, the box score of the report ran this way:

1. Cancer of the esophagus -- there is evidence of an association with smoking, but cause and effect have not been decided on the basis of present evidence.

2. Cancer of the urinary bladder -- an association with cigarette smoking but not enough evidence to establish a cause-and-effect link.

3. Stomach cancer_no relationship established.

4. Peptic ulcer (including ulcers of the stomach and of the duodenum which links the stomach with the intestines)_an association with cigarette smoking but no cause and effect yet established.

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