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Rise of the Anti Smoking Revolution

During the 1950’s and 1960’s, as well as numerous decades before that, smoking was extremely commonplace.  It was not unusual to see people enjoying their cigarettes pretty much anywhere, but over the past forty years there has been a dramatic shift in the prevalence of smoking and in the public perception of the habit.  The extreme backlash against cigarettes has sparked anti-smoking campaigns, the rise of anti-smoking organizations, and a slew of studies on the effects of smoking on the human body.

Anti-Smoking Organizations *

Since the news began to spread that smoking is harmful to a person’s health, hundreds of anti smoking organizations have been established with the goal of educating the public on the health risks associated with smoking and encouraging and assisting them to quit smoking for good.  Of course, some of these organizations are massive, with branches and programs internationally and some are operated on a local level in communities across the country.  Some of the most influential and powerful anti-smoking organizations are:

  • The American Lung Association
  • American Heart Association
  • Action on Smoking and Health
  • Framework Convention Alliance
  • American Legacy Foundation
  • Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco
  • American Cancer Association
  • Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids

These advocacy groups have done much more than just bring awareness to the dangers of smoking and producing catchy anti-smoking slogans; they have become integral in challenging tobacco companies and forcing them to be accountable for the business that they conduct.

Additionally, these organizations in tandem with some highly effective anti-smoking campaigns have prompted major societal changes in smoking, such as largely reducing the public places where smoking is allowed.  Airplanes, restaurants, and malls are a few of the places that enforce a no smoking policy.  Other places such as theme parks and sports stadiums now only allow smoking in designated areas.

Anti-Smoking Campaigns *

The American Cancer Society developed what has been the most successful anti-smoking campaign, the Great American Smokeout.  The Smokeout, which is held annually on the third Thursday in November, began in the late 1970’s and has been a driving force in changing not only the societal perception of smoking, but also in influencing legislation and health care practices.  According to the American Cancer Society’s website, the Great American Smokeout was pivotal in these milestones:anti smoking

  • In 1977, Berkeley, California, becamethe first community to limit smoking in restaurants and other public places.
  • In 1983, San Francisco passed the first strong workplace smoking restrictions, including bans on smoking in private workplaces.
  • In 1990, the federal smoking ban on all interstate buses and domestic flights of 6 hours or less took effect.
  • In 1994, Mississippi filed the first of 24 state lawsuits seeking to recuperate millions of dollars from tobacco companies for smoking-related illnesses paid for by Medicaid.
  • In 1999, the Department of Justice filed suit against cigarette manufacturers, charging the industry with defrauding the public by lying about the risks of smoking.
  • In 1999, the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) was passed, requiring tobacco companies to pay $206 billion to 45 states by the year 2025 to cover Medicaid costs of treating smokers. The MSA agreement also closed the Tobacco Institute and ended cartoon advertising and tobacco billboards.
  • In 2009, The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was signed into law. It gives the FDA the authority to regulate the sale, manufacturing, and marketing of tobacco products and protects children from the tobacco industry’s marketing practices.
  • In 2012, the FDA published a list of harmful and potentially harmful constituents (HPHCs) in tobacco products and tobacco smoke. The list helps people better understand the amount of toxic, addictive, and cancer-causing substances in every puff of smoke.

Many anti-smoking campaigns are carefully designed to appeal to children and teenagers; since this age group is highly impressionable, they are the most likely demographic to pick up smoking.  A massive government backed campaign, “The Real Cost: Be Tobacco Free,”  has adopted a memorable and jarring method of getting the stop smoking message to youths.  In a series of anti-smoking commercials, cigarettes are replaced with miniature sized people who bully the smoker into doing whatever they say.  These anti-smoking ads combine two major challenges that face kids and teens, bullying and taking up smoking, and encourages them to resist both, smoking in an overt active way and bullying in a slightly more subtle peripheral sense.  These ads take small examples of actions smokers take and illustrate to their audience how quickly and easily smoking can take over their lives, in some cases, without them even realizing what is happening.  This particular campaign is especially effective because it utilizes not just commercials but an interactive website packed with anti-smoking facts and information that explain in an easy to understand format why smoking is dangerous and all of the risks it poses to a person’s health.

Smoking Ads Then vs. Anti Smoking Ads Now *


Not only was smoking everywhere in real life during the 50’s and 60’s, it was all over reel life as well.  Main characters in television shows and in feature films were frequently presented on camera with a cigarette in hand.  Characters such as Joe Cool the Camel and the Marlboro Man were not just characters, they were smoking icons, whom everyone knew on sight, and who in fact, still are referenced in pop culture today.  As the potentially devastating effects of smoking were revealed and proven over and over again in studies, these icons were essentially retired once cigarette ads were banned from being aired on television.  Now relegated to only print media, the presence of cigarettes in the media and entertainment industries rapidly dwindled and now is mainly present in the form of anti-smoking commercials or anti-smoking medication advertisements.anti smoking

In stark contrast to the glamorized ads and commercials from the past that praised cigarettes and glorified smoking, the recent anti-smoking ads are about as far away from glamor and carefree fun as one can get.  Since society has become highly desensitized and cynical about many topics, words and advice don’t usually have as strong of an influence on changing people’s behavior, therefore, anti smoking campaigns have turned to employing more of a shock factor in their commercials.  A series of ads featuring former smokers who are now suffering from a variety of medical challenges, serves as a dramatic warning that continuing to smoke can cause cancer, loss of limbs, teeth, hair and even death.  These individuals are clearly ravaged by disease and through their appearance and their anti-smoking quotes, they provide a powerful example of how smoking really isn’t worth the consequences it comes with.

How to Stop Smoking AKA Anti-Smoking Drugs Are Everywhere *

While it is very true that big tobacco is a billion dollar a year industry, they are not the only industry raking in the dough thanks to smokers.  Pharmaceutical manufacturers began working overtime to develop “cures” and miracle drugs to help smokers kick their habit once the tide of anti-smoking support began rolling in.

Many of these cessation options employ nicotine, the highly addictive main ingredient of tobacco, to satisfy the smoker’s craving without them having to actually light up and smoke a cigarette.

Smoking cessation aides are a huge business, with pharmaceutical companies reaping the benefits as they introduce and improve upon a growing range of anti-smoking drugs. Gums, patches, and other prescription medications are widely available either by a doctor’s order or over the counter, and they all promise to help anyone stop smoking for good.

Quickly gaining popularity and notoriety is another method, E-cigarettes.  These e-cigs or vapes, as they are also known, enable smokers to get the nicotine they crave through evaporation in a special device but cuts out the carcinogens created by smoking a traditional cigarette.  Unlike many of the other anti-smoking options, these e-cigarettes are relatively new and they have not had enough testing or research conducted on them to really ascertain how they will affect people’s health or what potential long term effects they may have.

Despite all of these efforts, there are still many smokers that refuse to give up smoking, no matter how much their loved ones may try or how many anti-smoking education they have.  Undoubtedly the anti smoking revolution will keep working to continue to convert smokers to non-smokers and to prevent non-smokers from ever picking up the habit until smoking is no longer responsible for causing illness and death.

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