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Surgeon general's warning saved 8 million lives, study says

Fifty years ago this Sunday, Americans picked up their newspapers and read about the results of a long-awaited, much-publicized report from the US Surgeon General: cigarette smoking is hazardous to your health. The 387-page report went into great detail about the health effects of smoking and called for remedial action, leading to the now-iconic warnings on cigarette packages and an end to cigarette ads on television.

And it paid off, according to a new study led by Theodore R. Holford ’73PhD, a biostatistics professor at the Yale School of Public Health. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study estimates that the surgeon general's report and the measures it prompted have saved eight million lives since 1964, extending those lives by an average of 19.6 years.

"We have essentially cut in half the number of tobacco-related deaths each year compared to what would have occurred in the absence of this effort," Holford said in a Yale press release. "This is very encouraging, but the halfway point also means that there is more to be done."

Filed under smoking, surgeon general
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