It has been about 50 years later since they told us that we could probably die from it but many of us do it anyway. I am talking about cigarette smoking. It was on July 27,1965 about 49 years ago which was the day the federal government tried to clear the air on the subject of cigarette smoking and our health. It was the day that President Johnson signed legislation requiring warning labels on packages of cigarettes. The warnings came a year and a half after the Surgeon General Luther Terry announced the findings of a ground breaking study that indicated that cigarette smoking contributed substantially to mortality from certain specific diseases and to the overall death rate.
The warning labels was a warning that appeared on every pack of cigarettes and a blow to an industry that made smoking look so very good for you. It was sexy and romantic and just cool to have a stick in between your fingers and then touching your lips having everyone notice slightly your style of blowing the smoke in and out from your lips. In the 1962 movie called Dr. No with Sean Connery as James Bond, there was hardly a scene when he did not have a cigarette on him. In the movie called Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn in 1961 made smoking look sophisticated. So, we all went out and spent about 30 cents on a pack of cigarettes and thought we could be just like those beautiful and cool movie stars. If you were into rugged, you bought a pack of Marlboro's and thought you were a rugged cowboy.
Cigarette commercials were everywhere on TV and in print advertising. People smoked everywhere, in hospitals and in restaurants and in schools. By 1971, all of that was being banned. By 1990 smoking was banned on all commercial airliners. In 1998 the tobacco industry issued a $206 Billion dollar settlement with 46 states as compensation for the Medicaid money that was spent treating smoking related illnesses. Today smoking is banned in increasing numbers just about everywhere even in public places outdoors. The advertising about smoking is no longer romantic and glamorous. The ads are graphic and crude and just frightening showing black lung and disfigured faces due to smoking related diseases.
Despite 50 years of warnings and bans and graphic horrific health disasters, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 42 Million American adults, that is one in five continue to smoke. The CDC also blames smoking for 480,000 deaths per year. The price for the tobacco is at all time highs. There are many new products being sold at tobacco shops and through mail order publications. Snus, snuff, hookers and now electronic cigarettes keep the traditions going.