It was 1960 when Winston cigarettes sponsored the popular TV cartoon series, "The Flintstones." Four years later, the U.S. Surgeon General released a groundbreaking report spelling out the harmful effects of smoking, a compilation of the best scientific evidence at the time.
That inspired warning labels and higher taxes on cigarettes, and smoking cessation programs. Now, 50 years later, researchers estimate that eight million lives have been saved.
Yale University professor Ted Holford is the lead author of a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association looking at the impact of America’s anti-smoking measures over the past half-century. He's found significant and steady progress. "In the first decade," he said, "the number of lives that were saved we estimate to be about eleven percent. But that’s grown, so today it's about 50 percent of where we would have been without any change."
Americans are also living longer. A 40-year-old man today can expect to live seven years longer. Women have added another five years to their lives.
Holford measured how much of that was due to the fact that fewer people smoke. "This one single factor accounts for about 30 percent of it, in both men and women, which is a huge impact for a single factor."