Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who fought the tobacco industry, died at the age of 96. He issued the first government warning about secondhand tobacco smoke, Bloomberg reports.
Dr. Koop focused more on tobacco than on any other issue during his eight years as Surgeon General, the article notes. He accused the tobacco industry of deceptive advertising, and issued a landmark Surgeon General’s report in 1986 with the first government warning that linked secondhand smoke and lung cancer. He called for a smoke-free society by 2000, and new laws to restrict smoking in workplaces and public spaces. Today, many such laws have been enacted.
The Surgeon General website notes, “Although the Public Health Service had been calling attention to the danger of tobacco smoking since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health, its anti-tobacco campaign was relatively low-key until invigorated by Koop’s persistent efforts to speak out on the subject.”
Smoking rates dropped from 38 percent to 27 percent while he was in office, according to The Washington Post.