Exactly 58 years ago, on Tuesday, the United States Public Health Service released a report linking smoking to cancer. Led by Surgeon General Luther Terry, the document was based on 7,000 articles warning of the negative health effects of tobacco.
Today, the innovative report is seen as the nation’s first punch in its ongoing battle against nicotine use.
Before that, cigarettes were a pillar American society and tobacco advertisements graced billboards, airwaves and television screens nationwide. Many have claimed that there are no negative health impacts associated with the habit.
During the remainder of the 1960s, the United States Congress passed two laws which banned cigarette advertising in broadcast media, demanded health warnings on cigarette packaging and called for an annual report on the health consequences of smoking.
Smoking rates have decreased precipitously since. In 1965, more than 42% of American adults smoked cigarettes according to the American Lung Association. That number had fallen to around 19% in 2011 and now stands at just under 14%.
One of the main forces behind the publication of the 1964 study was the US Surgeon General at the time. Luther terry.
The Alabama native was appointed to the post by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. After retiring from government in 1965, he moved to Philadelphia where he headed the health sciences programs of the ‘University of Pennsylvania and became a professor.
Terry spent his last years working in the company that would become Aramark – which has its seat along the Schuylkill river at 2400, rue du marché – before dying of a heart attack in 1985.
In Philadelphia, adult smoking rates are slightly higher than the national average, but still declining. About 19% of adults in the city smoked cigarettes in 2019, up from more than 25% in 2011.
The city’s public health department found that the decreases in smoking between 2011 and 2019 were the largest among Philadelphia’s non-Hispanic black population. Twenty-five percent of black women in the city smoked between 2011 and 2015, while only 19% smoked between 2016 and 2019. For black men, the rate fell from 30% to 25% during the same periods. .
But in Philly, a person economic status is a better indicator of their smoking habits than their race, according to the city’s DOH.
Philadelphia residents with incomes 150% or less than the federal poverty line are about 20% more likely to smoke than those with incomes 300% or more of the federal poverty line.
In many ways, teens are the most important demographic when it comes to smoking prevention, as they often carry their habits from adolescence to adulthood.
In 2019, Philadelphia found that only 2% of high school students smoked cigarettes, down from almost a quarter in 1999. This is even lower than the 4.6% reported nationwide in 2020 by the CDC.
But cigarettes are an old-fashioned way of consuming nicotine, and many public health officials these days are more concerned with teenage vaping.
Almost 20% of middle and high school students in the country said they had vaped nicotine at least once in 2021 according to the CDC. In 2019, the Philly DOH found that 7% of the city’s youth vaped while only 2% smoked cigarettes and 4% used other forms of tobacco. In the same year, 9% of adults in Philadelphia reported using e-cigarettes
Many public health officials to believe the seemingly endless number of flavors one can choose from when vaping, many of which mimic the flavor of candy or other sugary treats, is a secret way for the nicotine industry to sell itself to young people across the country.
Of the more than 2 million American schoolchildren who reported using an electronic cigarette in 2021, 8 in 10 used a flavored device.
As a result, a wave of laws similar to those targeting cigarettes have been passed against vaping in recent years.
In Pennsylvania, tobacco of any kind – including electronic cigarettes – cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 21 and is subject to a 40% tax.
Philadelphia has its own regulations around smoking, including laws that require most tobacco stores in the city to have a special license. Additionally, the city has restricted the sale of unflavored tobacco products with a nicotine content of more than 20 milligrams per milliliter to adult-only stores.
In New Jersey, regulations on cigarettes are similar, but the rules around vaping are a bit stricter. The state has banned everything flavored steam products in 2020 because of their appeal to children.