Monday, January 11, 2010

The Great American Smoke-Out – The First Government Report Warning Against the Dangers of Smoking Issued

On January 11, 1964, Surgeon General Luther Terry issued a report entitled Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General. This report was the first official government report that warned against the dangers of smoking. This was not the first time a government agency hinted at the dangers of smoking. In 1957, Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney stated that the official position of the U.S. Public Health Service was that scientific evidence pointed to a link between smoking and lung cancer. However, the scale of the report issued in 1964 was a major leap forward in making the public aware of the serious medical risks of tobacco. Surgeon General Terry decided to issue the report on a Saturday so as not to affect the stock market, but to also make the Sunday papers. The report was front-page news across the country and helped to educate the public about the medical risks of smoking.

This may not seem like a thrilling moment in American history, as it does not include any tales of gunplay, espionage or rock and roll. However, just think about the incredible shift the government has taken in its attitude toward smoking and tobacco companies in such a relatively short span of time. During World War II, the government provided servicemen with cigarettes as part of their rations. By 1957, it publicly linked smoking with lung cancer, and by 1964 it acknowledged the serious medical risks associated with smoking. After 1970, advertising cigarettes on television was against the law. Nancy Reagan eventually launched her war on drugs and we all found ourselves going through the infamous D.A.R.E. program. What an incredible transition in less than fifty years.

Once tobacco advertising on television became illegal in 1970, different advocacy groups used television to get out the anti-smoking message. Here are some early examples of anti-smoking PSA’s. Enjoy and don’t smoke!

Here’s a famous anti-smoking PSA that first aired on September 15, 1967

Here’s another PSA that features a dolphin – the natural choice to hit home an anti- smoking message (?)

Finally, here is John Wayne in western garb talking about his own experience with lung cancer. Its ironic that he is dressed as a cowboy talking about lung cancer, as Marlboro frequently used the image of a cowboy to sell their cigarettes. Tragically, John Wayne succumbed to cancer in 1979.

[Image via PBS]

No comments:

Post a Comment