The Tobacco Wars

1978 The sounds of silence

Time Magazine coverIn the January 1978 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, R.C. Smith reports on his survey of how magazines covered smoking in the seven years since the ban on broadcast advertising of cigarettes–during which time the proportion of cigarette ads in magazines had doubled.

The survey, Smith writes, reveals “a striking and disturbing pattern. In magazines that accept cigarette advertising I was unable to find a single article, in seven years of publication, that could have given readers any clear notion of the nature and extent of the medical and social havoc being wreaked by the cigarette smoking habit.” Neither Time nor Newsweek, to cite two of Smith’sexamples, “has published anything resembling a comprehensive account of the subject,” while carrying six to eight pages of cigarette advertising per issue. Smith concludes that “advertising revenue can indeed silence the editors of American magazines.”

1979 Carter sacrifices his Secretary

Near the end of 1978, Speaker “Tip” O’Neill warns Department of Health, Education, and Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano, the nation’s most vocal anti-smoking advocate: “You’re driving the tobacco people crazy. These guys are vicious–they’re out to destroy you.” Democrats worry that Carter can’t carry North Carolina and perhaps other Southern states if Califano remains in office. A few months later, the president makes Califano walk the plank. Tobaccoland cheers.


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