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Statement from Acting Surgeon General RADM Boris Lushniak on the passing of former Surgeon General Jesse Leonard Steinfeld

Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Contact: OASH Press Office
(202) 205-0143

Yesterday, America lost an exceptional physician, devoted public servant, and former surgeon, Dr. Jesse Leonard Steinfeld.  Dr. Steinfeld was surgeon general of the United States from December 1969 until January 1973, and a passionate advocate for public health. Expanding the role of the surgeon general in the fight against tobacco, he led the development of the 1971 report, The Health Consequences of Smoking and subsequent updates in 1972 and 1973 that outlined the new scientific evidence on the compelling link between smoking and disease.Dr. Steinfeld was outspoken about how the nation should work to reduce the harm caused by smoking. Dr. Steinfeld used the office of the Surgeon General to call attention to the dangers of second-hand smoke and was ahead of his time in calling for bans on smoking in public places, paving the way for tobacco-control policies in years to come. He also discouraged those close to him from smoking by making symbolic gestures such as replacing ashtrays with signs that read “Thank you for not smoking.”

And, at a time when critics were calling for the elimination of critical components of the nation’s public health infrastructure, Dr. Steinfeld successfully fought for retaining the U.S Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the nation’s uniformed service charged with protecting, promoting, and advancing the health and safety of the Nation. The nation and the world will mourn the loss of a courageous leader and pioneer for public health.