The annual Great American Smokeout, a day when smokers are strongly encouraged to quit, occurs on the third Thursday of November.

CDC Marks 50th Anniversary of Surgeon General's Report

The first report on smoking and health was released Jan. 11, 1964. Since then, no other issue has engaged the U.S. surgeons general more than smoking.

Federal officials have marked the 50th anniversary of the seminal U.S. surgeon general’s report on smoking and health, noting that millions of people have quit smoking since it was issued Jan. 11, 1964, but millions of Americans still smoke.

"Fifty years ago today was a tipping point in recognizing and reversing the deadly epidemic caused by smoking. The first Surgeon General's report on smoking and health, released on January 11, 1964, made clear that smoking causes cancer," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a statement. "We now know that smoking also causes a wide range of disabling, disfiguring, and deadly diseases not only in smokers but also in people exposed to second-hand smoke and in children born to pregnant women who smoke. We have also learned how addictive cigarettes are, and that quitting is the most important thing smokers can do to avoid heart disease, cancer, lung disease, and other smoking-related illnesses. We have made enormous progress in the past 50 years, preventing millions of deaths and tens of millions of illnesses. But we have much further to go – tobacco remains, by far, the single leading preventable cause of death in the United States and the world. More than 40 million adults and 3 million kids smoke in America today. That's why CDC developed the Tips From Former Smokers campaign, which harnesses the strength and wisdom of former smokers to inspire current smokers to try to quit. In 2012 this campaign helped more than 100 million smokers quit permanently. Most smokers have already quit, and you can, too. If you need help, talk to your doctor or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW."

Acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris D. Lushniak also issued a statement noting that Dr. Luther Terry, the ninth surgeon general, issued the report, which contained this warning: "Cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action."

"Over the decades since 1964, no single issue has engaged the Surgeons General more than smoking," Lushniak wrote. "Since 1964, 31 Surgeon General's Reports have added to our understanding of the devastating health and financial burdens caused by tobacco use. Despite significant progress, about 45 million people currently smoke in America, and tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death. If you are one of the millions of Americans who smoke, I ask you to quit for your own good and for the good of your loved ones. Today is a great day to make the pledge and begin the path to health and wellness."

He said the 32nd Surgeon General's Report will be released later this month.

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