A History of U.S. Surgeon General Warnings: Smoking, TV, Safer Sex and More

A warning issued by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on Tuesday provided guidance on a problem that has long been on the minds of American parents: the negative impact of social media on adolescents’ mental health.

Public health advisories of this kind are not issued frequently, but they can sometimes be a turning point in American life.

It took a 1964 Surgeon General’s report and decades of effort to transform smoking in America from what was seen as an attractive habit to one with deadly consequences. .

Annual cigarette consumption per capita in the United States has increased from 54 in 1900. In 1963, more than 4,000 cigarettes When the first studies suggested a link between smoking and cancer.

This prompted Dr. Luther L. Terry, who served as Surgeon General under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, groundbreaking report On the health hazards and effects of smoking in 1964.

Dr. Terry described the crisis as a “national concern.”

The collapse was rapid. In 1965, Congress required health warnings to appear on all cigarette packages distributed in the United States. In 1970, tobacco advertising on television and radio was banned.

Tobacco continues to be a target for the Surgeon General, who later emphasized concerns that: Sidestream smoke Tobacco promotion targeting children. And in 2016, Dr. Mercy released a comprehensive report calling e-cigarettes and e-cigarettes a “significant health concern.”

Dr. C. Everett Cope, Surgeon General under President Reagan, is credited with changing public discourse on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. In 1986 he Releases a generation-defining report on AIDS. The report discusses in plain language risk factors and ways people can protect themselves, including using condoms for safer sex.

But the outspoken discussion of sexual topics later stumbled Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who worked under President Bill Clinton. Her efforts to expand access to health screenings and sex education were lauded by some, but she suggested distributing contraceptives in schools and encouraging children to masturbate as a way to prevent HIV infection. He resigned in 1994 under pressure for allowing himself to teach. A view that has angered conservatives.

In 1972, Dr. Jesse L. Steinfeld, who served as Surgeon General under President Richard Nixon, called for “appropriate and immediate remedial action” after the incident. report They found a “uniform adverse effect” on children watching violence on television.

In the late 1980s, the numbers were staggering. About 25,000 people died in alcohol-related traffic accidents in the United States each year.

In one of his last acts as Surgeon General, in 1989, Dr. Koop enacted strict new standards for blood alcohol levels for motorists, as well as increased taxes on alcoholic beverages and restrictions on alcohol advertising. asked. He also called for the abolition of happy hours and the immediate suspension of drivers who exceed the legal limit.

By the turn of the century, about 300,000 Americans had died from diseases caused or exacerbated by obesity, and Dr. David Thatcher, Surgeon General under President Clinton in 2001, said: I urged you to call for big steps Schools, communities and the food industry have taken action to deal with what he described as an epidemic.

But the crisis only deepens. Between 1999 and 2017, obesity rates in the United States increased from 30% to 42%, and severe obesity increased from 5% to 9%, according to the CDC.

Social media isn’t the only concern for the current Surgeon General.Dr Mercy speaks out against gun violence in America public health problem and more recently epidemic.

He called for further research and government intervention. Former Surgeon General and the researchers Called for policy change It focuses on treating gun violence as a public health crisis. According to the CDC, nearly 50,000 Americans will die from gun-related injuries in 2021, more than any other year on record when homicides and suicides are included. It is the leading cause of death among children in the United States.

And earlier this month, Dr. Mercy announced: General Recommendations for Surgeons And this month, a new framework was developed to address “the public health crisis of loneliness, isolation and lack of connection in our country,” which he likened to the risks posed by daily smoking. He said the trend was further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Physical health consequences of poor or inadequate connectivity include increased risk of other health conditions.

Here’s his advice on how to avoid feeling lonely:

Notably, the report on loneliness does not endorse social media as a form of connection, urging Americans to ensure that digital interactions “do not compromise meaningful and healing connections.”

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