Tell a lie often enough…

… and you’ll sell more tobacco products. (A couple of earlier posts about tobacco products are here and here.)

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Sydney P. Ram was a Chicago pipe-maker who had a shop on the loop (he retired in 1942).  Apparently his pipes are still sought after by afficionadoes. This book was published in 1941, when advertisements of this nature were still common:

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And memos like the following were (while not publicly disseminated) urging marketeers to go after the young:

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In 1952, Reader’s Digest condensed an article from the Christian Herald entitled “Cancer by the Carton.” Prior to this, very little was being publicly said about the dangers of smoking, and as we can see from Ram’s book, it was easy to muddle the issue simply by denying the “superstitions.” Anti-smoking PSA’s became one of Readers Digest’s favorite soapboxes, along with anti-Communism.

The situation was well described over at Lisa’s Nostalgia Cafe:

The worlds of advertising and cigarette smoking have been intertwined for as long as we can remember. In the first half of the 20th century, tobacco companies were major contributors to the advertising industry, and many radio and TV programs were sponsored by these companies.

As the 1960s dawned, things were beginning to change. During the 1950s, people became aware of the health hazards of cigarette smoking and began to file court cases against the tobacco companies. Private medical journals published studies linking smoking to lung cancer, and magazines like the Readers Digest ran anti-smoking articles.

The turning point came in 1964 when the Surgeon General released their first report linking smoking to lung cancer, heart disease, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These results got everyone’s attention. The government, which had been at the mercy of the tobacco lobby, began to get involved and slowly some changes were made.

I was roped into smoking in high school in 1964. After I gave up tobacco five years later, for a while I became a dedicated crusader and I recall getting quite an assortmant of pamphlets, article reprints, buttons,

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and other tools for use in my campaign.

Progress has been slow, but continues to be made in our country. The education campaign continues:

The faces of the onlookers are priceless.

Unfortunately and to our shame, tobacco manufacturers have shifted their focus from the US to overseas. As consumers here became more aware of the dangers of smoking, Big Tobacco looked for victims (I use that term deliberately)  in other parts of the globe. In 2019, the global market was worth $614 billion; even Everett Dirksen would be impressed by a number like that.[1]

According to the American Lung Association,

Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death worldwide. Smoking-related diseases claim over 393,000 American lives each year. Smoking cost the United States over $193 billion in 2004, including $97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in direct health care expenditures, or an average of $4,260 per adult smoker.[2]

We can’t give up the fight. It will be slow. Tobacco is a legal product, and many people in the USA still put bread on their family’s table as a result of the industry. Acceptable alternative crops for farmers need to be found, and those who work in the packaging and shipping aspects will need to be moved into other economic sectors. If headway can be made in the legalization of industrial hemp[3], this could prove a godsend for farmers looking for a way out of the tobacco market.

Given the costs to society and individuals incurred as the direct result of tobacco use, the fight is a worthwhile one.

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The Old Wolf has smoken (and is glad that he was able to quit when he did!)


[1] Senat0r Everett Dirksen was once reputed to have said, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.” He may never have said it, but it continues to circulate; after all, nothing on the Internet ever really dies.

[2] “Smoking-Attributable Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Productivity Losses — United States, 2000–2004”, CDC. Click through for the article.

[3] U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ‘White Paper’ on Hemp

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3 responses to “Tell a lie often enough…

  1. Pingback: You will read this blog post now! (Available only for a limited time!) | Playing in the World Game

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