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February 26, 2013

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop Dead at the Age of 96, R.I.P

Posted in: Deceased,Obituary

C.  Everett Koop, the former surgeon general who served from 1982 to 1989, has died at the age of 96 at his home in Hanover, NH. Coop served under both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.  C. Everett Coop was probably one of the most recognizable and influential US surgeon generals ever. During his tenure as Surgeon General, Koop was an effective communicator best known for raising awareness on the dangers of smoking and AIDS. He once described himself as the “health conscience” of America. Who can forget the surgeons general warning on cigarettes packages that became as popular as Nancy Regan’s “Just Say No” drug campaign and his call for a smoke free nation.  In 1984 he wrote that nicotine has an addictiveness similar to that of heroin or cocaine.

C. Everett Koop, the former surgeon general who brought frank talk about AIDS into U.S. homes, has died at his home in Hanover, N.H., officials at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth said Monday. He was 96.

Koop, a pediatric surgeon with a conservative reputation and a distinctive beard, served from 1982 to 1989 during the Reagan administration and the early months of the administration of George H.W. Bush.

“He was a historic figure,” who became surgeon general the year the AIDS pandemic began and played a pivotal role in educating Americans about it, says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

The life and times of C. Everett Koop.

C. Everett Coop takes on smoking and AIDS from the NY Times.

Dr. Koop issued emphatic warnings about the dangers of smoking, and he almost single-handedly pushed the government into taking a more aggressive stand against AIDS. And despite his steadfast moral opposition to abortion, he refused to use his office as a pulpit from which to preach against it.

These stands led many liberals who had bitterly opposed his nomination to praise him, and many conservatives who had supported his appointment to vilify him. Conservative politicians representing tobacco-growing states were among his harshest critics, and many Americans, for moral or religious reasons, were upset by his public programs to fight AIDS and felt betrayed by his relative silence on abortion.

As much as anyone, it was Dr. Koop who took the lead in trying to wean Americans off smoking, and he did so in imposing fashion. At a sturdy 6-foot-1, with his bushy gray biblical beard, Dr. Koop would appear before television cameras in the gold-braided dark-blue uniform of a vice admiral — the surgeon general’s official uniform, which he revived — and sternly warn of the terrible consequences of smoking.

“Smoking kills 300,000 Americans a year,” he said in one talk. “Smokers are 10 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers, two times more likely to develop heart disease. Smoking a pack a day takes six years off a person’s life.”

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