History this Week
January 10, 2020

When the U.S. Surgeon General, Luther Terry, announced that smoking was bad for our health on January 11, 1964, it was a big deal.

In an episode of the History this Week podcast, University of Maryland School of Public Health Dean and Professor Boris Lushniak sheds light on the historical, economic and social context behind the announcement and it’s ramifications.

“It was the first time the Surgeon General really stepped into the smoking and the cigarette realm,” Dean Lushniak explained.

“What we saw in Luther Terry was a transition of that position, not only being a person that was, yes, in charge of some of the health care needs of this country but for that person to really be a spokesperson. All of a sudden, it became big politics.”

Dean Lushniak served as the U.S. Deputy Surgeon General from November 2010 to September 2015, and the Acting Surgeon General from July 2013 to December 2014. 

Fifty years after Luther Terry’s first announcement, his office published an anniversary report on smoking, and he felt hopeful, Dean Lushniak told the History this Week podcast.

“We were praising a half-century of effort, and one that from the optimist’s perspective, has resulted in a much better world,” said Dean Lushniak. 

“What the optimist basically says is, ‘I saved eight million, and I can save more if I do this right.’"

Luther Terry Family with  former Surgeon General David Satcher  and former Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak at Luther Terry's grave site at the Arlington National Cemetery.
Luther Terry's family with former Surgeon General David Satcher and former Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak at Luther Terry's gravesite at the Arlington National Cemetery.   

 

 
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Boris Lushniak