Sunday, December 28, 2014

Jesse Steinfeld | Antismoking official, 87

Jesse Steinfeld, 87, who became the first surgeon general forced out of office by a president after he campaigned hard against smoking during the Nixon years, died Tuesday.

Dr. Steinfeld died Tuesday at a nursing home in Pomona, Calif., after a stroke he suffered about a month ago, said his daughter Susan Steinfeld.

Dr. Steinfeld was a cancer researcher and taught at the University of Southern California medical school before serving as Richard Nixon's surgeon general from 1969-73.

He won the ire of the tobacco industry for his efforts to publicize the hazards of smoking. He changed cigarette package labels that lukewarmly stated tobacco use might be connected to health problems.

His label warned: "The surgeon general has determined that smoking is hazardous to your health."

He issued a report in 1971 that argued for tighter restrictions on smoking in public to protect people from secondhand smoke. He promoted bans on smoking in restaurants, theaters, planes, and other public places - decades before such prohibitions became commonplace.

"It's a good lesson for everyone on how long it takes to change public opinion," said another daughter, Mary Beth Steinfeld.

He refused to meet with tobacco-industry lobbyists and hung signs around his office that read, "Thank you for not smoking."

He believed his antitobacco stance led to Nixon's request for his resignation at the start of the president's second term.

After he left, the position of surgeon general remained vacant until Jimmy Carter appointed Julius Richmond in 1977.

He was vocal on other issues, arguing that TV violence had a bad influence on children and backing bans on the artificial sweetener cyclamate and the pesticide DDT. - AP

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