For over twenty years dedicated individuals have led the fight against corporate greed and have pushed back against a corporate pressure group that once was thought to be unbeatable. Big Tobacco has been pushed back and scattered by a mixture of healthcare professionals like doctors and nurses, anti-smoking lobby groups and individuals, including many for whom the fight is personal. Alongside the government these people have managed to turn a sector famous for its corporate welfare and ubiquitous presence into a dwindling field. And all this at a global level.
Let’s face it, cigarettes have been well known to be harmful to human health. Ever since the 1950s medical studies had shown that cigarettes lead to lung and throat cancer and that the act of smoking can lead to other major health issues. Mouth and throat issues, plaque and receding gums have all been tied to smoking over the past 70 years as have arterial problems, heart conditions, even impotence and low sperm counts. Despite all this, cigarettes went mostly untaxed and were readily available at a host of locations ranging from drug stores and gas stations to department stores.
Cigarette companies also embarked in shameful marketing practices, trying to hype up their brands and associate them with romantic success or freedom and a wild spirit. Some brands, like Camel, targeted younger, often very young audience through the use of such gimmicks as cartoon characters or catchy ‘hip’ music in their commercials.
This all changed with the push back against Big Tobacco. With smoking a rising problem increasingly sapping healthcare services government started more heavily regulating cigarettes. Nowadays, smokers have the opportunity of switching from tobacco to e-cigs like the Blu cig but back then a concentrated campaign effort was needed to cut into Big Tobacco profits and make sure that less people smoked tobacco.
A mixture of government intervention, scientific research and private awareness campaigns cut tobacco use amongst Americans throughout the 90s but it wasn’t until public smoking bans that people really started questioning the social value of tobacco. After a certain tipping point was reached the public reaction to smoking started changing and it soon became socially unacceptable to smoke in many laces that allowed smoking. Tobacco and its harmful side effects are all but banished today to the privacy of your own home and it’s mostly thanks to society not legislation.
The battle with Big Tobacco remains a classic tale of David and Goliath. It should be regarded as a handbook for fighting (and winning) battles against big lobbies choking the system.
To dive deeper into the history of Big Tobacco in America, check out this excellent documentary, Tobacco Wars.