If there was ever a government report or action that changed a nation, it could well be the first surgeon general's report on smoking issued in 1964.
At the time of the report, cigarette commercials dominated network television. "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should" was a jingle heard over and over again; the Marlboro Man was a lean, tough icon of masculinity.
Interestingly, Winston was a prime sponsor of the game show "I've Got A Secret." Its moderator, Garry Moore, died of emphysema. He had survived a bout with throat cancer.
And USA Today reported a model who portrayed the Marlboro Man, Eric Lowson, died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on Jan. 10. COPD is a smoking-related disease.
Lowson was the third Marlboro Man model to die of a disease associated with smoking tobacco. David Millar died of emphysema in 1987 and David McLean died of lung cancer in 1995, according to USA Today.
Fewer people smoke today but 30 reports later the surgeon general's findings about smoking remain grim. Among those cited in this year's report on surgeongeneral.gov:
* You don't have to be a heavy smoker or a longtime smoker to get a smoking-related disease or have a heart attack or asthma attack that is triggered by tobacco smoke.
* Low levels of smoke exposure, including exposures to secondhand tobacco smoke, lead to a rapid and sharp increase in dysfunction and inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels, which are implicated in heart attacks and stroke.
* Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds. Hundreds are toxic and at least 69 cause cancer. Tobacco smoke itself is a known human carcinogen.
* Chemicals in tobacco smoke interfere with the functioning of fallopian tubes, increasing risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes such as ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage and low birth weight. They also damage the DNA in sperm, which might reduce fertility and harm fetal development.
* Most importantly, there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.
That is why it is so sad to see young people smoking cigarettes. It may be true that we all have to make our own mistakes, but smoking is a lethal one.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.