Magazine article Medical Economics

Remember When.Doctors Smoked?

Magazine article Medical Economics

Remember When.Doctors Smoked?

Article excerpt

The September 1955 issue of Medical Economics (we were a monthly back then) shows a photo of the actor Richard Boone. At the time, he was playing Dr. Konrad Styner in the popular television series "Medic."

Ah, yes-years before "Ben Casey" and "Dr. Kildare," and a decade or more before "Marcus Welby, M.D.," "St. Elsewhere," "Chicago Hope," and "ER," there was "Medic." And there was Richard Boone, who would achieve a higher level of notoriety years later wearing black and playing Paladin in the TV western "Have Gun, Will Travel."

In our 1955 photo, a long white cigarette dangles from the weary Dr. Styner's lips. He is in surgical scrubs, the mask pulled down around his neck. The caption says that Dr. Styner looks "as bushed as a real-life surgeon in this postoperative cigarette break."

Ah, yes-it wasn't so long ago that doctors were not only smoking but also touting the virtues of the habit.

A 1930 magazine ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes announced, "20,679 physicians say Luckies are less irritating." Camel proclaimed, "More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette."

As late as 1954, an official at the National Cancer Institute said, "If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one."

In 1964 came Surgeon General Luther L. Terry, M.D., and his landmark report on smoking's connection to all sorts of nasty side effects, including death. A year earlier, we published an article telling readers what to do "When your children want to smoke" (Oct. 21, 1963). We advised doctors to set a good example themselves-or to use their own bad example if that would work.

The chorus of medical voices has grown over the past 35 years. In 1975, Richard C. Bates, an internist in Michigan and a long-time Contributing Editor of this magazine, declared in these pages, "Smokers shouldn't be admitted to med school" (May 12,1975). …

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