Yesterday the world lost a true legend in the fight against tobacco use when Dr. C. Everett Koop, the former U.S. Surgeon General, passed away at age 96.
President Reagan appointed Dr. Koop as Surgeon General in 1982, and he would hold that post for seven years. During that time, Koop became one of the most visible health champions in history, producing landmark reports on smoking that showed the world the undeniable connection between tobacco use and heart and lung disease. These reports also provided some of the earliest evidence of the dangers of secondhand smoke and the addictive qualities of nicotine. Dr. Koop was the driving force behind new, stronger, more specific warning labels on cigarette packages as well.
He was also a member of the ClearWay Minnesota family. Together with former FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler, Dr. Koop served as a founding honorary co-chair of ClearWay Minnesota when we were created in 1998. Dr. Koop advised Attorney General Skip Humphrey and other founders as they set up the organization. Always above politics himself, he was instrumental in establishing ClearWay Minnesota as an independent nonprofit, so that our funding would be reserved for tobacco control purposes throughout our entire lifetime. He will be deeply missed by the tobacco control community in Minnesota, across the country and around the world.
In 2008, at the age of 91, Dr. Koop returned to Minnesota to deliver the keynote address at our 10th anniversary symposium. During that visit, he was interviewed by ClearWay Minnesota’s Andrea Mowery. You can listen to that interview here.