Looking Back Over the Past 50 Years

page2Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report:The Health Consequences of Smoking–50 Years of Progress.

In the last 50 years, we’ve made tremendous progress in reducing the burden of tobacco.  Here are some milestones from the last 50 years in tobacco control:

Surgeon General Reports

1964: U.S. Surgeon General’s report concludes smoking causes lung cancer.  42% of Americans smoked.

1986: The 19th U.S. Surgeon General’s report officially acknowledges and emphasizes the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

1988: U.S. Surgeon General’s Report concludes nicotine is addictive.

Packaging and Promotion

1965: Warning labels required on cigarette packs—“Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health.”

1968: Philip Morris introduced the Virginia Slims brand.  With its iconic “You’ve come a long way, baby” ad campaign targeting women.

1971: TV and radio commercials for cigarettes are prohibited.

Joe-Camel1987: The RJ Reynolds tobacco company debuts the Joe Camel character in its U.S. advertisements. This cartoon character hooked millions of kids on Camel tobacco products.

1994: Seven tobacco company executives testify before Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-CA) congressional committee that they do not believe nicotine is addictive.

2006: The tobacco industry is found guilty of knowingly and intentionally deceiving the American public by making false and fraudulent statements to sell its deadly products.

e7e63f0742010: Youth access and marketing restrictions on tobacco products take effect and cigarette companies are prohibited from using “light”, “low” and other misleading health descriptors.

Up in the Air

1972: Airlines required to provide no-smoking sections.

smoking1988: Smoking is prohibited on domestic airline flights less than two hours.

1989: Congress makes all domestic airline flights smoke-free.

2000: Smoking prohibited on international flights.


1973: Arizona becomes the first state to restrict smoking in a number of public places.

1975: The Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act goes into effect.  This is the first statewide law in the nation that requires separate smoking areas in public places.

Nicorette1984: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves nicotine gum as the first drug designed to help people quit smoking.

1987: Aspen, CO becomes first U.S. city to require all restaurants to be smoke-free.

1998: Forty-six states reach $206 billion settlement with cigarette makers.  California becomes the first state to pass a state-wide smoke-free law, eliminating smoking in all restaurants and bars.

DHD_logo2002: Delaware becomes the first state to enact a comprehensive smoke-free law.

2004: The United States signs the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Treaty, which is the world’s first tobacco control treaty and establishes international guidelines for countries to implement and control tobacco use and addiction. The treaty has not yet been sent to the U.S. Senate for ratification.

bloomberg-cigarettes-ap111913_6062013: New York City becomes the first major city in the nation to raise the legal sale age for tobacco products to 21.


Federal Initiatives

EPA-Logo1992: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies Environmental Tobacco Smoke as “Group A” carcinogen, the most dangerous class of carcinogens.

1993: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders. The report concludes that secondhand smoke is responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year in non-smoking adults and impairs the respiratory health of hundreds of thousands of children.

FDA_Logo1995: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration asserts jurisdiction over tobacco products by declaring nicotine a drug. President Clinton approves this proposal in 1996, giving the agency authority to regulate cigarettes as a “drug delivery device.”

2009: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is authorized to regulate tobacco products.  Congress raises the federal cigarette tax by 62 cents to $1.01 per pack.

terrie-cancer-700x7002012: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launch the paid media campaign, Tips from Former Smokers, which features real people living with diseases caused by smoking.

Electronic Cigarettes

e-cigarette2009: When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tried to regulate the e-cigarette as a drug (nicotine) delivery device, the e-cigarette industry sued.

2010:  A federal judge ruled that e-cigarettes should be regulated as tobacco products rather than drug or medical devices.

2010: New Jersey became the first state in the nation to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in public places and workplaces.



2013: Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Council passed legislation to prohibit the smoking of electronic cigarettes in indoor public places and workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

New York City

2003: The NYC Smoke-Free Air Act goes into effect.  Thanks to this groundbreaking law, New Yorkers are able to breathe clean, smoke-free air in the workplace, regardless of whether they work in a high-rise office or neighborhood restaurant or bar.

06_smokefree_parks_beaches2011: New York City parks and beaches go smoke-free.

Despite this great progress, the fight against Big Tobacco has not yet been won.  Each year, more than 440,000 Americans will die from tobacco-related illnesses this year. Eighteen percent of U.S. adults continue to smoke daily.  And there are still 2.5 million smokers in New York State.



We join health advocates around the country to reduce tobacco use rates to less than 10% in every state as quickly as possible.

By using the lessons learned in the last 50 years and continuing to implement proven public health policies, we believe we can meet this goal.