After Nearly 500 Years in Favor, Tobacco Has Few Friends Now: Seeds for Landmark Deal Sown by Surgeon General in 1964

By Burn, Timothy | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 21, 1997 | Go to article overview

After Nearly 500 Years in Favor, Tobacco Has Few Friends Now: Seeds for Landmark Deal Sown by Surgeon General in 1964


Burn, Timothy, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


America's fascination with tobacco dates back to Christopher Columbus, who might have lit up a stogie before he introduced the leaf to Europe. It later became one of the nation's most lucrative cash crops, both domestically and for export.

For years, the tobacco companies touted their product's benefits ("four out of five doctors smoke . . .) and allure - the image of Paul Henreid lighting cigarettes for himself and Bette Davis in "Now, Voyager" became a romantic cliche of the 1940s. It wasn't until well after World War II, in fact, that America began to question the effects of tobacco use on health.

The government's war against tobacco began in 1964, when U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry released the first official report concluding that smoking causes lung cancer.

One year later, the government enacted the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, which required that the surgeon general's warning on tobacco be printed on cigarette packaging.

In 1967, the battle spread into the realm of advertising, the tobacco industry's most potent way of introducing its products to the public. The Federal Communications Commission ruled that its Fairness Doctrine should apply to cigarette ads, and mandated at least one anti-smoking ad for every three tobacco ads.

In 1971, the government banned tobacco advertising from radio and television. That same year, United Airlines became the first U.S. carrier to establish smoking and nonsmoking sections. A year later, the Civil Aeronautics Board ruled that all airlines had to separate smokers from nonsmokers.

Throughout the 1970s, smoking declined gradually as Americans learned more about the hazards of tobacco. In 1977, anti-smoking groups banded together and staged the country's first "Great American Smokeout" to encourage smokers to quit, even if only for one day.

As researchers laid more and more major illnesses to smoking, insurance companies in 1981 began offering discounted life insurance premiums to nonsmokers. That same year, the tobacco companies agreed to increase the size of the surgeon general's warning on billboards.

Meanwhile, the costs associated with treating people with tobacco-related illnesses continued to rise and smokers began taking on the industry in America's courts.

In 1983, Rose Cipollone, a smoker dying from lung cancer, launched a landmark lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The suit, which included a $400,000 verdict for the plaintiff, was overturned after reaching the Supreme Court, and the case was finally dismissed at the behest of the plaintiff's son, who could no longer afford to fight.

The nine-year legal battle highlighted the strength of the tobacco industry and its ability to win legal battles against smaller foes through attrition.

Despite the difficulty in courts, the government stepped up its attacks on the industry in 1984, strengthening the warnings on cigarette packaging and approving nicotine-laced gum as a aid for quitting smoking. …

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After Nearly 500 Years in Favor, Tobacco Has Few Friends Now: Seeds for Landmark Deal Sown by Surgeon General in 1964
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