Cartoonists Take Up Smoking



On January 11, 1964, at a crowded press conference in Washington, DC, United States Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry released Smoking and Health, a review of the scientific studies on tobacco. The landmark report was written by a panel of 10 distinguished medical researchers (selected by the Surgeon General with the approval of the tobacco industry), who unanimously and unequivocally concluded that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer and other diseases.

All Cartoon Images Cartoonists Take Up Smoking
Newspapers covered the story with banner headlines reserved for wars, natural disasters, and presidential elections. Until that moment, the tobacco industry had always had the last word by flooding TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards, and storefronts with advertising that glamorized smoking and allayed public anxieties about the harm cigarettes might cause. Now the dangers of smoking were no longer debatable.

Exhibit Flyer

Yet more than 40 years later, progress in reducing the terrible toll taken by tobacco has come about far too slowly because of a combination of ubiquitous advertising, political clout, and lucrative payoffs to the very forces that should have been in the vanguard to end the smoking pandemic.

Cartoonists Take Up Smoking

Presidents, Members of Congress, governors, state legislators, publishers, broadcast media owners, medical school deans, scientists, firefighting officials, and leaders of organized medicine, universities, museums, the arts, ethnic minority organizations, and professional sports have been chronic recipients of tobacco company money and have seldom been willing to bite the nicotine-stained hand that feeds them.

“Cartoonists Take Up Smoking” retraces the era of modern anti-smoking advocacy as seen through the eyes of America’s newspaper editorial cartoonists. These trenchant works of art satirize tobacco company executives, from their sabotage of clean indoor air legislation and airline smoking bans to their circumvention of restrictions on advertising and promotion. But the cartoons have also poked fun at anti-smoking zealotry
and have highlighted the hypocrisy of state attorneys general seeking cash damages from an industry with whom the states had long been in cahoots.

Above all, editorial cartoonists have shown that the most addictive thing about tobacco is money.

Alan Blum, MD
Curator, Cartoonists Take Up Smoking