Smoking tied to cancer: Jan. 11, 1964
It isn’t exactly shocking news that scientists believe smoking causes cancer—British researchers had linked the two a few years earlier. But the release of a report by U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry saying that smoking cigarettes could cause lung cancer is expected to have huge repercussions—so huge that President Lyndon Johnson had ordered that the announcement be delayed until this Saturday morning so the impact on the stock market might be reduced.
The first two copies of the 387-page report, wrapped in brown paper, are delivered to the White House early in the morning. Then a few hours later, reporters begin gathering in a Washington auditorium. After they’re locked in and denied access to phones, the journalists are handed the report and given 90 minutes to read it, after which they’re able to ask Terry questions. He reiterates the conclusions that cigarette smoking is a cause of lung cancer in men and a probable cause in women. He also notes that the research found the use of filters in cigarettes did not reduce the risk, as tobacco companies had claimed.
The findings were not exactly revolutionary. Since 1950, studies that found higher rates of lung cancer in heavy smokers had been appearing in medical journals. A widely read article in _Reader’s Digest i_n 1952, “Cancer by the Carton,” helped to bring the largest drop in cigarette consumption since the Depression. In 1954, the American Cancer Society had announced that smokers had a higher cancer risk.
But the tobacco industry fought back. In addition to claiming that filters in cigarettes would stop toxins from entering a person’s lungs, cigarette companies began placing full-page ads in hundreds of newspapers in which they argued that research linking tobacco products and cancer was inconclusive.
The tobacco industry quickly responded to the Surgeon General’s report. About a month after its release, six cigarette companies made a $10 million research grant to the American Medical Association (AMA). Soon thereafter, AMA executives wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission objecting to the labeling of cigarettes as health hazards.
Nevertheless, within a year Congress passed a law requiring warning labels on cigarette packs and, in 1971, cigarette advertising was banned from TV.
The 1970s also saw the birth of a movement to protect nonsmokers from cigarette fumes, with the creation of no-smoking sections on airplanes, in restaurants and in other places. Those eventually gave way to complete smoking bans. Cigarette machines disappeared, cigarette taxes rose, and restrictions on the sale of cigarettes to minors got tougher.
Tobacco companies also came under increasing legal attack. More than 40 states brought lawsuits demanding compensation for the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses. Finally, in 1998, the tobacco industry settled the lawsuits by agreeing to pay about $200 billion and curtail marketing of cigarettes to youths. It was also that year–34 years after the Surgeon General’s report–that tobacco executives, in an appearance before Congress, publicly acknowledged for the first time that tobacco can cause lung cancer and be addictive.
Each year, an estimated 443,000 people in the U.S. die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More slices of history
U.S. cancer death rate continues to fall
Cancer death rates have fallen signficantly across the U.S. over the past two decades, according to a new report, resulting in approximately 1.5 million fewer deaths.
The data, which comes from the National Cancer Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Cancer Society, found that between the years 1991 and 2011, the average rate of all cancer deaths fell by about 22 percent. Cancers for which death rates declined included breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer.
The decline was found to be highest in Northeast states, and between 2007 and 2011, the cancer death rate for men dropped by 1.8 percent, compared to 1.4 percent for women. Disparaties in cancer rates may have been partially due to social inequalities, poverty and health insurance coverage, experts said.
The report projects that in 2015, there will be about 1.65 million new cases of cancer in the U.S. and 590,000 cancer deaths–29 percent of which will be caused by breast cancer and 27 percent by lung cancer.
Liver cirrhosis more prevalent than thought
New research has found that cirrhosis of the liver may be more common in the U.S. than previously thought.
Liver cirrhosis, the 12th leading cause of death overall in the U.S. causes irreversible scarring that prevents the liver from functioning properly. A main cause includes sustained excessive alcohol consumption–although it also can be caused by hepatitis C–and the condition can lead to liver failure and cancer.
Scientists from the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine collected data from an annual U.S. population survey to estimate the prevalence of liver cirrhosis in the general U.S. population, which was previously thought to be approximately 400,000 cases. They found instead that more than 633.000 adults in the U.S. have cirrhosis of the liver, which is about 0.27percent of the population.
The researchers also found that about 69 percent of people in the U.S. with liver cirrhosis do not realize that they have it.
Researchers said that one limitation of the study was that people with mild liver disease may have been counted as those with cirrhosis of the liver. However, even so, the results of the study, which were published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, suggest that the general population and medical professionals should take measures to help prevent liver cirrhosis, as about 50 percent of cases are caused by preventable factors.
Small screens keep kids from sleeping
Children who use devices with small screens at night–such as smartphones or tablets–get less sleep than children who do not use such devices, according to a new study.
Scientists from the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health analyzed data on more than 2,000 children in fourth through seventh grade. The data was collected from the Massachusetts Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration Study that was conducted from 2012 to 2013.
The researchers found that the children who had access to electronic devices with small screens got about 21 fewer minutes of sleep per night, when compared with the children who had no access to small-screened devices. Children in the former group also reported feeling more sleep deprived. In addition, the research showed that kids with TVs in their rooms averaged about 18 minutes fewer of sleep compared to those who didn’t have TVs in their bedrooms. used small screens at bedtime got less sleep than children with TVs in their rooms–an average of 18 fewer minutes of sleep. The researchers also found that children who had televisions in their bedrooms got about 18 fewer minutes of sleep per night than children with no TVs in their room.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, provides more evidence that the use of electronic devices at bedtime may hinder children’s quality of sleep, and that small-screened devices may be particularly harmful to good sleeping habits.