Surgeon General's Cigarette Report Marks 50th Anniversary

RENO, NV - Nearly half of all adult Americans smoked in 1964 when the then-US Surgeon General released his report on the hazards of cigarettes.

Nevada once led the nation in the number of smokers; our state now ranks 35th—with a 22% adult smoking rate.

And that decrease in smoking reflects the rest of the country, with about 44,000,000 adult smokers currently, or about 20%.

Former nurse Sher Todd used to be one of those smokers.

“I was working at UC Medical Center and in a hospital and we smoked in the hospital. And so at that point I was smoking 2 packs, 46 cigarettes a day,” says the former smoker.

Todd now teaches health care providers how to talk to their patients about smoking.

Studies show while many say they do, when they are actually observed, less than ten percent address the issue with their patients.

Todd says that needs to change.

But what has changed in 50 years--advertising and warnings about cigarettes.

50 years ago you would have never seen a warning on a pack of cigarettes.

Advertising in magazines is not uncommon, but you won't see it on TV, where tobacco companies once sponsored entire programs.

Awareness has expanded to not only include women, but pregnant women.

Not just secondhand smoke, but now third-hand smoke.

And while surgeons general over the years have authored many reports updating findings and statistics on smoking, when the latest report is issued Thursday, expect some dramatic goal-setting.

“We've actually been given a goal in the next 10 years that by the year 2024 they want to see us reduce the tobacco rate in the United States to less than 10%,” says Kelli Deals, a Washoe County Health Department Health Educator.

It's estimated 8,000,000 lives were saved as a result of the surgeon general's report 50 years ago.

That's because smoking is the largest cause of preventable death in this country.

But there's also an economic price to pay.

Consider here in Washoe County alone, more than $266,000,000 was billed to local hospitals annually for patients with tobacco-related diseases.