Cigarettes Become a Dangerous Product: Tobacco in the Rearview Mirror, 1952–1965
Tobacco control’s unparalleled success comes partly from advocates broadening the focus of responsibility beyond the smoker to include industry and government. To learn how this might apply to other issues, Berkeley Media Studies Group, along with the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law, examined how early tobacco control events were framed in news, legislative testimony, and internal tobacco industry documents.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that early debate about tobacco is stunning for its absence of the personal responsibility rhetoric prominent today, focused instead on the health harms from cigarettes. The accountability of government, rather than the industry or individual smokers, is mentioned often; solutions focused not on whether government had a responsibility to act, but on how to act. Tobacco lessons can guide advocates fighting the food and beverage industry, but must be reinterpreted in current political contexts.