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Letter to the editor: Legacy of the U.S. Surgeon General’s tobacco report is more powerful than ever

Posted: Wednesday, Jan 22nd, 2014

Watch any episode of the hit TV show “Mad Men” and it’ll give you the sense of how normal smoking used to be in America – on airplanes, in movie theaters, in hospital waiting rooms.

Since then, the national smoking rate has dropped to around 20 percent – and smoking isn’t allowed in a lot of public places anymore. Indeed, since the summer of 2012, tobacco prevention efforts have resulted in several Wyoming establishments going voluntarily smoke-free – including the Irma Hotel in Cody, The Mint Bar in Sheridan and all the bars in Centennial.

The release of the first Surgeon General’s Report on Jan. 11, 1964, laid the groundwork for these important public health changes. That landmark report forever changed the public view of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Once thought of as a harmless vice, the report clearly illustrated – with data to back it – the serious health harms of tobacco use.

The report’s impact continues to be felt to this day. Many important policies, like Laramie going smoke-free in 2005, Cheyenne in 2006 and Evanston in 2007 might not have occurred without the first Surgeon General’s report. Locally, the majority of our restaurants are smoke-free, as is the Broncho Bar and Spirits of 77.

But there are challenges, especially in Wyoming, where nearly 1 in 4 adults smoke cigarettes and 10 percent of residents use smokeless tobacco – which is 6 percentage points over the national average, according to the Wyoming Survey & Analysis Center’s “The Impact of Tobacco in Wyoming 2013 Annual Summary.”

To that end, we need to continue to show the same kind of courage that it took to release that first report. I encourage community members to learn more about local tobacco prevention efforts by calling Lynette Saucedo, community prevention professional for the Prevention Management Organization (PMO) of Wyoming, Goshen County office.

And remember: Wyoming tobacco users who want to quit can call the Wyoming Quit Tobacco Program at 1-800-OUIT-NOW or visit quitwyo.org to get started on their own healthy, tobacco-free life.

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