50th anniversary of first major report on smoking & health

Tuesday 06 March 2012

A conference today will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the first major report that explained the harm caused by smoking. The report, “Smoking and Health”, published in 1962 by the Royal College of Physicians, was unique in not only demonstrating that smoking caused lung cancer, and was linked to other diseases, but also because it started a major shift in public attitudes to smoking and to the role of government in the public health aspects of smoking. [1] The doctors’ report also led to the foundation of ASH in 1971.

The ground-breaking report was the first to advocate a comprehensive strategy to tackle smoking including measures such as educating the public, better restrictions on the sale of tobacco to children, restricting tobacco advertising and increasing the tax on cigarettes. All these measures have been implemented, although more still remains to be done.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH commented:

“There has been a seismic shift in attitudes to smoking since the early 1960s when the majority of adults smoked. However, one in five Britons still smokes and around 200,000 children start smoking every year. [2]

“Although a great deal has been achieved, more still needs to be done, particularly to stop children getting hooked. Putting tobacco products out of sight in shops will help but we also need to stop the marketing of tobacco via the packs. Plain packaging of tobacco products is the logical next step to put an end to tobacco marketing and we look forward to the forthcoming Government consultation on this issue.”

Notes and Links:
[1] The policy recommendations set out in the RCP 1962 report “Smoking and Health” were as follows:
(1) more education of the public – and especially school children – concerning the
hazards of smoking
(2) more effective restrictions on the sale of tobacco to children
(3) restriction of tobacco advertising
(4) wider restriction of smoking in public places
(5) an increase in tax on cigarettes, perhaps with adjustment of the tax on pipe
and cigar tobaccos
(6) informing purchasers of the tar and nicotine content of the smoke of cigarettes
(7) investigating the value of anti-smoking clinics to help those who find giving
up smoking difficult.

[2] A smokefree future. A comprehensive tobacco control strategy for England. HM Government, 2010

Deborah Arnott is a member of the RCP’s Tobacco Advisory Group and contributor to the RCP’s report: “Fifty years since Smoking and Health. Progress, lessons and priorities for a smoke-free UK.” RCP

Contact: Deborah Arnott 020 7739 5902 (w) or 07976 935 987 (m) ISDN available
For interviews with RCP please contact Head of PR and public affairs Linda Cuthbertson on 020 3075 1254, 07748 777919, linda.cuthbertson@rcplondon.ac.uk.