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Am J Public Health. 2014 Jan;104(1):37-46. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301475. Epub 2013 Nov 14.

Cigarettes become a dangerous product: tobacco in the rearview mirror, 1952-1965.

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Lori Dorfman, Andrew Cheyne, Pamela Mejia, and Laura Nixon are with Berkeley Media Studies Group, a project of the Public Health Institute, Berkeley, CA. Mark A. Gottlieb and Lissy C. Friedman are with the Public Health Advocacy Institute, Boston, MA. Richard A. Daynard is with Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA.


Tobacco control's unparalleled success comes partly from advocates broadening the focus of responsibility beyond the smoker to include industry and government. To learn how this might apply to other issues, we examined how early tobacco control events were framed in news, legislative testimony, and internal tobacco industry documents. Early debate about tobacco is stunning for its absence of the personal responsibility rhetoric prominent today, focused instead on the health harms from cigarettes. The accountability of government, rather than the industry or individual smokers, is mentioned often; solutions focused not on whether government had a responsibility to act, but on how to act. Tobacco lessons can guide advocates fighting the food and beverage industry, but must be reinterpreted in current political contexts.

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