Skip to content

Harkin Marks 50th Anniversary of First Report From Surgeon General on Health and Smoking

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) applauded the historic and continued success of anti-smoking efforts ahead of the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health. The most recent evidence of the extraordinary progress made over the last five decades comes from a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which found that from 1964-2012, at least 8 million premature, smoking-related deaths were prevented.  Among these 8 million people, that has meant an extra 20 years of life, on average. For those age 65 and younger, researchers estimate the percentage of lives saved by smoking reduction efforts jumped nearly 50 percent, over the same time period.

“Tomorrow’s anniversary gives us an opportunity to reflect on one of the greatest public health successes of our time. While tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, and a major contributor to public health costs, the incredible success of anti-tobacco efforts over the last 50 years cannot be ignored,” Harkin said.  “Yet even as we celebrate the success of these campaigns, we cannot forget that our work is not done.  In the last 50 years, at least 17.6 million deaths were attributable to smoking and 440,00 new lives are claimed by smoking each year.  I look forward to the continued implementation of the landmark Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the ongoing success of public awareness campaigns such as the wildly successful “Tips from a Former Smoker,” and the many more lives that will be saved thanks to Americans’ no-cost access to smoking cessation therapies under the Affordable Care Act.  By building on the progress we’ve made, we will be able to save more lives and continue to improve the health and quality of life of all Americans.”  

In 1998, Harkin introduced the first comprehensive, bipartisan bill to give the FDA authority to regulate tobacco.  Harkin was an original cosponsor of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave FDA that authority in 2009, and banned candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes and misleading health claims such as "light" and "low-tar."  It also requires tobacco companies to disclose the contents of tobacco products and empowers the FDA to require changes in tobacco products.

As HELP Committee Chairman, Harkin authored the prevention and wellness measures that are included in the Affordable Care Act.  Preventive initiatives in doctors’ offices and the community help rein in costs across the full health care spectrum. The prevention and public health measures of the health reform law create incentives to reduce tobacco use and prevent chronic disease, and require health insurance companies to cover recommended preventive services, including tobacco cessation, with no copays or deductibles.

Since 2010, the Prevention and Public Health Fund – created by Harkin in the Affordable Care Act - has supported more than $200,000,000 in tobacco prevention and control work, including the Tips Campaign and expanding quit phone lines.