Saturday, January 05, 2013

Thank You for Supporting the Tobacco Industry

Sidhartha Mukherjee. The Emperor of Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. New York: Scribner, 2010.

This detailed book examining the history of our awareness of cancer and how it is treated contains areas of interest to public policy readers.

The Surgeon General Luther Terry report linking cigarettes to cancer wakened the public to the dangers of cigarettes. Millions responded by quitting smoking. this was not without controversy. The tobacco industry was politically strong as an employer of many voters in several states and as a lobbying force. The Food and Drug Administration was persuaded not to declare cigarettes as a drug, The Federal Trade Commission did act to restrict cigarette advertising and required health warnings posted on cigarettes. Congress was persuaded by the tobacco industry to tone down the warnings to not include that they can cause cancer.

Anti-tobacco activists was spurred into action by the weakened Congressional action. Mary Lasker led a group, along with others, to lobby Congress. She was aided by Senators Lister Hill and Edward Kennedy. Hill retired and scandal diminished Kennedy’s effectiveness.

A government panel issued in 1970 called for a great national investment in cancer research, A lesser program was eventually approved by Congress and President Nixon.


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