Xavier University hosts current and former U.S. Surgeons General for anti-tobacco summit

Attendees at the recent “TobacNO” summit held on the campus of Xavier University of Louisiana were encouraged to pledge to remain “#TobaccoFree.”

Six U.S. surgeons general were part of the event to emphasize that it’s time for the public to heed the warnings about tobacco use.

“Fifty years after the first Surgeon General’s Tobacco Report, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States,” said Dr. Regina Benjamin during the TobacNO summit Feb. 11.

Benjamin, along with five of her fellow surgeons general, spoke to all ages — from grade school children to adults — encouraging them to stop smoking or never start and to make a public pledge that they will remain tobacco-free by printing the tobacco-free pledge sign found at www.tobaccosummit.com/pledge.html or by using the hashtag #TobaccoFree in their everyday social media posts.

“Each day, some 1,200 Americans die from smoke-related illnesses,” Benjamin said. “Each one of those deaths is being replaced by two new smokers; we call them ‘replacement smokers.’ Ninety percent of all smokers start by the age of 18, and 99 percent before the age of 26. If we can keep our young people from smoking before the age of 26, there’s a very good chance that we will have an entire generation that is tobacco-free.”

The rare combined appearance included acting U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak; 18th U.S. Surgeon General Benjamin, a graduate of Xavier University and chairwoman in Public Health Sciences at Xavier; 16th U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher; former acting U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Audrey Manley; 15th U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders; and 14th U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Antonia Novello.

In addition to the U.S. surgeons general, 14 guests spoke to the crowd, including Dr. John Ochsner, the son of Dr. Alton Ochsner, the founder of what is now the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans; and Michael Terry, grandson of Dr. Luther Terry, who released the initial surgeon general’s report on smoking on Jan. 11, 1964.

“The young people who attended the summit are motivated and actively working toward a tobacco-free generation,” Benjamin said. “We will continue to encourage people of all ages to take the pledge to be tobacco-free, and to encourage their school administrators to make their campuses tobacco-free.”