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Health & Medicine

New York Cancer Officials Recall Start of Health Concerns about Smoking


  New York Cancer prevention officials are recognizing the 50th anniversary of the study that began decades of trying to get people to either quit – or never start – smoking.  

It was called the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health…and was released 50 years ago Saturday.  American Cancer Society Spokesperson Michael Burgess credits a lot of change to that research.

“There was no longer any advertising on television.  There was a real rush to protect the public.  There was cigarette label warnings on the package.  I mean there was a dramatic change in the consciousness and the effort to get people to stop because it was so deadly”

Burgess notes things like the clean indoor air act followed, along with a steady decline in smoking rates.  At one time more than 42 percent of adults smoked; He says now that’s at 16-percent in New York.  However smoking rates and both lung cancer cases and deaths are higher in Onondaga County than the state average.  (Smoking's contribution to deaths by certain diseases in NYS, click here) Burgess recalls the huge tobacco lawsuit and settlement as another watershed moment.

“That picture of those tobacco executives being summoned before congress and having to admit that they knew cigarettes and tobacco were so addictive and that they went ahead and continued to market it the way they did.  It certainly increased focus on the marketing manipulation that was done and they’re still targeting young people to replace the older ones that are dying.”


Burgess says higher cigarette taxes might be as effective a deterrent as health information.  He also points out those taxes bring in about $2 Billion a year to the state…and only about 2 percent of that is spent trying to get people to stop smoking or educating them never to start.  

There are cessation resources at the website: