One of the most difficult aspects of the lung cancer problem is the lack of effective ways to detect this disease at an early stage. Health agencies such as the American Cancer Society, and the National Clearinghouse for Smoking and Health and Cancer Control Program in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare consequently give high priority to preventive measures, the most effective of which is abstinence from cigarette smoking.
In March 1968, the Public Health Service reported the results of a nationwide survey showing a marked decline in cigarette smoking among teenagers. The report culminated a year of progress along several fronts: in government action, new research developments, heightened educational activities, a deeper concern of physicians with the smoking problem.
Activity in the Federal Government was more pervasive during the year than ever before. Many anti-tobacco bills are pending in Congress; most of them would strengthen the warning printed on cigarette packages and require that it also be included in cigarette advertising. The Federal Communications Commission widened the opportunity for public education on smoking hazards under a "fairness doctrine" ruling that radio and television stations must present warnings against smoking to counter-balance advertising by the cigarette industry. An increasing number of stations are complying with this ruling. The Federal Trade Commission issued a listing of the tar and nicotine content of leading cigarette brands, to enable smokers who are unable to stop smoking to select brands with lower levels of the harmful ingredients.
In 1968, the Federal Government played a bigger role in the fight against lung cancer than ever before. Many of the anti-tobacco bills pending in Congress are designed to increase public awareness of the dangers of smoking by including cautions in advertisements and strengthening the warnings on cigarette packages.
Two important Public Health Service reports issued during the year contributed new data to scientific evidence on the health hazards of smoking. The first, titled, "Cigarette Smoking and Health Characteristics," presented data on illness and disability associated with cigarette smoking. The study showed that members of the Nation's labor force who smoke cigarettes spend more time away from their jobs because of illness than those who do not smoke. Men who were heavy smokers lost almost twice as many work days as those who never smoked or smoked very little; women lost more than 2.5 times as many work days. The second report, "The Health Consequences of Smoking," represented a review of more than 2,000 research studies published since the 1964 report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health. These additional studies confirmed and strengthened the findings of the earlier report.
An event of major and historic significance was the first World Conference on Smoking and Health held in New York under the sponsorship of the National Interagency Council on Smoking and Health. More than 500 representatives of 35 countries met to consider programs of action on the smoking problem, and a number of recommendations were developed. One immediate outgrowth of the conference was a nationwide television broadcast devoted entirely to the smoking problem. The CBS television network on January 16, 1968 introduced to the American public a National Smoking Test designed to give cigarette smokers clues that might help them give up smoking.
Male members of the Nation's labor force who were heavy smokers of cigarettes lost almost twice as many work days as those who never smoked or smoked very little; female workers lost more than 2.5 times as many work days.
Representatives from 35 countries attended the first World Conference on Smoking and Health in New York. The Conference was sponsored by the National Interagency Council on Smoking and Health.
National attention was again focused on the smoking problem in February 1968, through issuance of a Public Health Service poster with tKe legend: "100,000 doctors have quit smoking cigarettes. Maybe they know something you don't." The poster was placed on U.S. mail trucks throughout the country. A smaller version was distributed by local medical groups and interagency councils on smoking and health, for posting in doctors' offices, schools, and hospitals.
The importance of physician involvement in the smoking problem is suggested in a recent national study among physicians in which 77 percent of those interviewed said they believed it was the physician's responsibility to set a good example by not smoking cigarettes. Two out of three, the survey found, thought that physicians should be more active than they have been in speaking out before lay groups about cigarette smoking.
This poster was distributed by the Public Health Service and displayed on mail trucks and in post offices. It was also made available for posting in schools and hospitals.
In recognition of the urgency of developing preventive measures against the hazards of smoking, the American College of Chest Physicians, in cooperation with the Public Health Service, held a conference in Chicago in April 1968 to discuss the role of physicians in helping patients who wish to stop or to curtail their cigarette smoking. This was the first national medical forum specifically related to the management of smoking problems encountered in the doctor's office. In the two-day meeting, some of the Nation's leading experts in heart disease and cancer, as well as psychologists, behavioral scientists and epidemiologists, drew up a list of recommendations and guidelines for physicians. It was scheduled to be published in the Journal of Diseases of the Chest. In addition to this meeting, a number of professional and educational projects on the smoking problem are under way in many parts of the country.
Recognizing that 42 percent of the adult population continues to smoke despite general awareness of the health hazards of smoking cigarettes, the Surgeon General last fall appointed a national Task Force for Smoking and Health to consider further steps that might be taken by Government, private agencies, and individuals to reduce the health hazards. The Task Force, consisting of leaders from the fields of education, business, and medicine, has submitted a number of recommendations intended to complement the efforts of the Lung Cancer Task Force.
Although adult smokers are giving up the habit at the rate of one million a year, as many, or more, young people become new smokers each year. During the past year there were signs that for the first time this stalemate may be breaking. The most encouraging indication was in the teenage survey referred to earlier. Ten years ago, 34.7 percent of the 17-year-old boys were smoking, but only 25.5 percent are reported doing so today. At the same time, the percentage of 17-year-old girls who smoked dropped from 25.6 percent to 15.7 percent. Moreover, of the teenagers interviewed, 45 percent said they definitely did not expect to begin smoking within the next five years.
A Public Health Service report this year showed a marked decline in cigarette smoking among teenagers. Ten years ago. about one-third of the 17-year-old boys were smoking, but only one-fourth reported doing so this year. The trend for teen-age girls decreased similarly.