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Historic smoking report marks 50th anniversary

A 1949 advertisement for Chesterfield cigarettes showed future President Ronald Reagan promoting cigarettes as gifts.
A 1949 advertisement for Chesterfield cigarettes showed future President Ronald Reagan promoting cigarettes as gifts. Credit: ASSOCIATED Press/FILE

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ATLANTA — Fifty years ago, ashtrays seemed to be on every table and desk. Athletes and even Fred Flintstone endorsed cigarettes in TV commercials. Smoke hung in the air in restaurants, offices, and airplane cabins. More than 42 percent of US adults smoked, and there was a good chance your doctor was among them.

The turning point came on Jan. 11, 1964. It was on that Saturday morning that US Surgeon General Luther Terry released an emphatic and authoritative report that said smoking causes illness and death — and the government should do something about it.

In the decades that followed, warning labels were put on cigarette packs, cigarette commercials were banned, taxes were raised, and new restrictions were placed on where people could light up.

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