Date of Award

1-1-2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Historical Studies

First Advisor

Haller, John

Second Advisor

Bean, Jonathan

Abstract

There has been a well-documented and causal relationship between cigarette smoking and disease for over forty years, and at least an implicit concern over tobacco and health for decades, if not centuries prior; however, government policy on how to address tobacco as a public health issue has been erratic. At the turn of the twentieth century, when cigarettes first became a national phenomenon, the federal government imposed few if any regulations, and even encouraged the use of cigarettes. By the 1960s, government, public health entities and the tobacco industry were cooperating to try to fix the problem. Although there was great success in this early, if uneasy alliance, by the 1980s this coalition was fragmented and the search for a pragmatic solution to the tobacco problem came to an abrupt end. This dissertation is an investigation into how policy-makers, tobacco industry executives and public health officials each ignored opportunities to come to a practical solution to the problem which confronted them. The 1960s saw these groups work together to formulate a harm reduction policy approach which would lessen, if not eliminate, the concerns from each constituent group. Despite some significant early successes, this effort was derailed due to partisan positioning, misguided self-interest, and certain individual personalities. This analysis of the safer-cigarette campaign sheds light on a little explored avenue in the tobacco debate, as well as highlights the challenges of policy making in Washington.

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