Anti-Tobacco Campaign Turns 40

Anti-Tobacco Campaign Turns 40

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Richard Piatt ReportingThe anti-tobacco campaign is 40 years old this weekend. In 1964, the US Surgeon General released the first report on smoking and health. Since then, the number of people who light up has slowly decreased.

The old and addictive habit of smoking, 42 percent of Americans did it in 1964. Today just under 23 percent of adults light up.

For people younger than about 40, it may be hard to believe how popular culture embraced smoking. It was enhanced by slick marketing. For instance, Marlboro's 'tough guy' appeal came after its market for women failed. Others flourished with such appeal.

So powerful were those images, some found it unimaginable that smoking would ever border on being unpopular.

Joseph Hatch, Past Pres., Utah Medical Association: "No, I think we looked at that a little like the Berlin Wall. It might never come down; smoking, we might never make the dent we'd like to."

Especially when it supposedly made you smarter, even healthier. TV ads were banned in the late '60's. Warning labels were required on advertising and the products. Laws were passed to limit where people smoke. And tobacco companies settled for billions of dollars, compensating states for smoking-related health costs. But some still aren't satisfied.

Beverly May, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids: “We still have a lot to go with because it’s the number one preventable cause of death. And it affects all areas of our health.”

Heavy marketing still influences young smokers, competing with anti-smoking campaigns designed to counter decades of addictive behavior.

To celebrate the anniversary of the Report on Tobacco, the Truth Campaign will install an electronic billboard to count the number of tobacco-related deaths.

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