The report's conclusions were almost entirely focused on the negative health effects of cigarette smoking. It found:
- cigarette smokers had a seventy percent increase in age-corrected mortality rate
- cigarette smoke was the primary cause of chronic bronchitis
- a correlation between smoking, emphysema, and heart disease.
In addition, it reported:
- a causative link between smoking and a ten- to twenty-fold increase in the occurrence of lung cancer
- a positive correlation between pregnant women who smoke and underweight newborns.
As did the World Health Organization during this period, but possibly influenced by the fact that they were all smokers themselves, the Committee defined cigarette smoking as a "habituation" rather than an overpowering "addiction". Committee members agreed with most Americans that this habit (though often strong) was possible for individuals to break.
In the years that followed the Surgeon General's report, millions of Americans successfully chose to quit smoking, with two-thirds to three-quarters of ex-smokers quitting unaided by nicotine replacement methods. In addition, the "cold turkey," or sudden-and-rapid-cessation, method has been found to be the most successful in terms of stopping smoking over long periods of time. However, in a controversial move in 1989, a later Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop, M.D., shifted course and redefined cigarette smoking as "an addiction" rather than a habit.