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Surgeon general who fought tobacco dies at 87

Dr. Jesse Steinfeld

Dr. Jesse Steinfeld

LOS ANGELES — Dr. Jesse Steinfeld, who became the first surgeon general forced out of office by the president after he campaigned hard against smoking during the Richard Nixon era, died Tuesday. He was 87.

Steinfeld died in a nursing home in suburban Pomona following a stroke he suffered about a month ago, said his daughter, Susan Steinfeld.

Steinfeld was a cancer researcher and taught at the University of Southern California medical school before serving as Nixon's surgeon general from 1969-1973. In office, Steinfeld won the ire of the tobacco industry for his stubborn efforts to publicize the hazards of smoking.

He changed cigarette package labels that lukewarmly stated tobacco use might be connected to health problems. Steinfeld's label boldly 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.

Steinfeld believed his anti-tobacco stance led to Nixon's request for his resignation at the start of Nixon's second term. "He always used to talk about how he thought the tobacco companies were pressuring Nixon to get rid of him," another daughter, Mary Beth Steinfeld said.

Steinfeld is survived by his wife, Gen, of Pomona, Calif., three daughters and two grandchildren.

Surgeon general who fought tobacco dies at 87 08/06/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 8:12pm]
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