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Smoking Laws

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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In 1939, the first scientific studies linking smoking and cancer began to emerge. Regardless, tobacco was advertised as an elixir due to the rush its consumers felt. In 1956, a Surgeon General scientific study group determined that there was a causal relationship between excessive cigarette smoking and lung cancer. In 1957, a study by the American Cancer Society showed heavy smoking significantly shortens life span.

Public interest groups began to call for government action against smoking. However, Congress was dominated by Democrats from the South who supported smoking and their tobacco cash crops. In 1964, a U.S. Surgeon General Report stated smoking as a major health risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and emphysema. The executive branch's Public Health Service Administration ended distribution of free cigarettes in 50 Indian Hospitals under its jurisdiction. Also, the executive branch's Veterans Administration and Department of Defense ended distribution of free cigarettes in medical installations.

The executive branch's Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued rules pertaining to the advertising and labeling of cigarettes. However, Congress suspended the rules until hearings could be held. Tobacco growers agree to a voluntary code of good behavior in exchange for Congress prohibiting the FTC from making additional rules until 1969. Shortly thereafter, Congress passed a law requiring cigarette packages to bear the label: "Warning: Cigarette Smoking may be Hazardous to your Health."

In 1969, the FTC proposed a rule to ban all cigarette advertising from radio and television. FTC gives notice that it plans to hold hearings. In 1970, Congress issued a ban on cigarette television and radio advertising to take effect in 1971, and also required stronger health warnings on cigarettes.