The Surgeon General Warns of Smoking Effects

The Surgeon General Warns of Smoking Effects
Lady Bird Johnson: Science, Medicine, Inventions and tech

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: Two to three class periods


In 1963 the U.S. Surgeon General formulated a statement “declaring cigarette smoking to be a health hazard and a major cause of lung cancer and other deadly diseases.” Today, the health hazards of tobacco smoke continue to be reinforced and take its toll on millions of people worldwide.  President Johnson smoked three packs of cigarettes a day until his first heart attack, which caused him to quit.  Smoking was likely a major contributing factor to his death of a second heart attack in 1974.  Besides making the user more susceptible to cancer, smoking can cause significant damage to the heart and most other organs. Lady Bird Johnson also smoked.  When President Johnson stopped smoking after his first heart attack, he was known for being a very formidable anti-smoking proponent, so much so that when Lady Bird Johnson would light a cigarette, he would take it.


Students will investigate changes in anti-smoking information since the first statement by the U.S. Surgeon General in 1964 to the present.
Students will understand the possible dangers of smoking and how it affects the body.
Students will synthesize information to create posters or campaigns about the risks of smoking identified in the 1960’s, up to the present.

Materials Required:

Internet access, computer, library, posters, writing utensils, coloring utensils (or a computer drawing program like Paint), and printer.


  • Introduce students to the topic by explaining the introduction.
  • Tell students that they have been asked to be members on the public relations committee of the U.S. Surgeon General.
  • There are two ways of completing this lesson:
    • Each student (or groups) is responsible for creating two posters—one containing information that would have been presented in 1964 and one that could be used today.  Students should locate images from both time periods to represent their information.  Make sure that each poster represents up to date information for that time.  Posters should be legible.
    • Students could develop anti-smoking campaigns, complete with posters, fliers, and/or speeches on the risk factors involved in smoking.  Students should be encouraged to be creative—if they develop other ‘promotional’ ideas, use your discretion based on time and school materials.
  • Have students present their information to the class and explain the information and images found.

Extending the Lesson:

  • Ask a representative from the local American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, or American Heart Association to come to your school and do a presentation for your class.

Sources & Resources:

This lesson was developed by Marian Maxfield, Kent State University