PERHAPS no public official was as synonymous with the antismoking movement as C. Everett Koop, who died last Monday at age 96. Dr. Koop, who worked tirelessly to turn America into “a smoke-free society,” did not live to see that goal reached. But the rest of us have the power to make it happen.
Fewer than one in five American adults smoke, a share that’s plunged by about half since the 1960s — an achievement due, in some measure, to Dr. Koop’s antismoking crusade as surgeon general, from 1981 to 1989. Revelations in the 1990s about tobacco companies’ cover-up of smoking’s dangers also played a role. So have a host of other strategies that have included consumer taxes, minimum ages for cigarette purchases, restrictions on smoking in public spaces and programs to help people quit. Continuing on the same path, with some luck, we might be able reduce the smoking rate a little more.