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Anti-Smoking Push Continues 50 Years Later

January 17, 2014, 9:55 PM by Jared Ransom

Anti-Smoking Push Continues 50 Years Later

It was a moment of serious change in 1964 when the Surgeon General spoke against cigarette smoking, listing out all of the problems that can happen to someone who smokes.

"At that point in time, 42 percent of people in the United States did smoke. We'd had an indication and indications along the way that smoking wasn't the best thing you could do for yourself, but it was really the Surgeon General's report that made people sit up and say ' Hey, this is a really big problem," Megan Myers said.

The percentage of smokers in the United States is now down to 19 percent, but that does not eliminate the toll smoking has taken.

"Over 20 million pre-mature deaths can be attributed to cigarette smoking. Today, the annual death toll of smoking is approaching 500,000 per year. Enough is enough," Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak said.

In the latest report released by Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, he hopes that this new information will be enough to get more people to quit.

"There's more proven links to colorectal cancer, for example, there's links to diabetes, and those are things that we've been working on," Myers said.

"For those smokers, the clock is ticking. They can't wait for slow and steady progress to end the tobacco use epidemic," Lushniak said.

Myers and the American Cancer Society have pushed for more expensive cigarettes, expanded resources for people who want to quit and non-smoking laws that passed in South Dakota in 2010. She knows that her efforts for change need to stay as strong as the tobacco companies if she wants to see more people kick the habit.

"I think it is a possible thing to do. As long as the tobacco companies are working on getting more people smoking, we're going to be working on fighting those efforts and making sure that people don't ever start, and if they do start, they can have the access to quit,' Myers said.

Myers says many of the resources people use to quit smoking are paid for by taxes. She just returned from a week at the Capitol in Pierre to make sure those options for people wanting to quit stay intact.

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