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Health officials reflect on surgeon general's warning

By Kevin Lessard, KCFW Reporter, klessard@kcfw.com
Published On: Jan 09 2014 06:10:04 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 09 2014 06:43:23 PM MST
KALISPELL, Mont. -

A landmark health report is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month. The first surgeon general's warning linking smoking to lung cancer and heart disease was released in January of 1964.

We've learned a lot about smoking in the past five decades.

"Cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient enough importance to warrant remedial action," said the warning some called a landmark event for the way we looked at smoking.

Back in the '40s and '50s, it was even common to see ads on TV where doctors advocated smoking. Since the surgeon general's first report, we've come a long way.

The smoking rate across the country has dropped to 19 percent of the population. Fifty years ago, it was over double that at 44 percent.

But according to the American Cancer Society and Flathead County City Health Officer Joe Russell there's still more that can be done.

"A lot of what we still see as high death rates can be attributed to smoking.  Heart disease, lung cancer are predictive of tobacco use, specifically smoking," said Russell.

Russell also attributed the decrease in smokers to big tobacco lawsuits and antismoking ads.

Changes have come to the tobacco industry. Russell hopes that within the next 50 years, more strides can be made in preventing smoking-related deaths.

"We run programs here in the health department and there's other community based programs in Flathead County that really do try to eliminate people from smoking.  And it's not just the smoker; it's also those around them," said Russell.