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U.S. Government and the Tobacco Industry

Federal government anti-smoking efforts have a complex history, as the tobacco industry fought to limit any regulation.  The Surgeon General and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare recognized the health hazards from smoking in the 1960s and issued multiple reports, but it was not until the late 1970s that the Office on Smoking and Health was established.  In the 1960s the Department of Agriculture opposed warning labels on cigarettes.  The Food and Drug Administration claimed cigarettes were beyond its scope until 1996 when it became involved in the issue of cigarette sales to minors. However, the Federal Trade Commission brought multiple suits against the tobacco industry for misleading advertising from the 1930s-50s, and in 1965 required that health warnings be placed on all cigarette packages. The Federal Communications Commission also banned cigarette advertising on radio and television in 1969.  Under tobacco industry pressure, Congress diluted many of these efforts, but federal regulation slowly evolved.

 

In 1964, there were 70 million smokers in the United States, and tobacco was an $8 billion a year industry.  After a multi-year study, the Surgeon General issued the landmark report Smoking and Health, which linked smoking to an increased risk of developing lung cancer. The report also found that cigarette smoking was responsible for a 70 percent increase in the mortality rate of smokers over non-smokers.  In the 50 years since the publication of Smoking and Health, anti-tobacco initiatives have saved the lives of 8 million Americans. Since 1964, smoking rates have dropped from 42 percent of adults to 18 percent. Today 26 states and the District of Columbia ban smoking in indoor places and others limit smoking in a variety of other ways. 

For more information, see the National Library of Medicine's site on "The Reports of the Surgeon General."

U.S. Government and the Tobacco Industry