consumption dropped at a much faster rate than either before or after this period (DHHS 1989). Several studies have found that the ads were driving at least some of the downturn in smoking (Farrelly et al. 2003; Hamilton 1972; O’Keefe 1971; Warner 1989). When the congressional broadcast ban took effect (without much industry resistance), those advertisements disappeared from the nation’s living rooms, and the tobacco control movement lost one of its more effective tools for reducing tobacco use. Whatever the public health benefits of banning broadcast tobacco advertising, it was to the industry’s advantage to get the counter advertisements off the air.
After the television advertising ban, tobacco companies vastly increased their marketing budgets, shifting a large portion of advertising dollars into promotional activities aimed at (1) putting cigarettes in the hands of prospective users; (2) positioning cigarettes in prominent and accessible places at points of sale; and (3) creating good will for the companies with the public, community leaders, and politicians (IOM 1994). In 1975, the tobacco industry spent $491 million on all types of cigarette advertising and promotion in the United States. By 1985 that figure had nearly quintupled to $2.48 billon, and it continues to multiply (FTC 2005).
The industry prevailed in the courts as well. Of more than 200 tort claims filed on behalf of individual smokers between the mid-1950s and the early 1990s, not a single lawsuit succeeded. Tort litigation against the tobacco industry seemed to be dead. In a first wave of litigation, which began in the 1950s, the companies successfully argued that, absent a foreseeable risk of harm, consumers must bear the risks of using nondefective products. In the second wave, which began in the early 1980s, the industry successfully argued that smokers continued to smoke even with knowledge of the associated health risks (Rabin 1993).
The industry message that smoking was an individual choice—indeed, a right—and that others had no business depriving smokers of that pleasure resonated powerfully within American society. Even as antismoking forces were gathering steam and public knowledge of the dangers of smoking was high, smoking was widely seen as a personal decision, even if it was a self-destructive one. For those who were not smokers or tied to the tobacco industry, it could be a justification for steering clear of the controversy over smoking. As the remainder of this chapter reveals, however, new and increasing concerns about the health consequences of tobacco use would soon begin to reshape public opinion regarding smoking.
Research about the harmful effects of secondhand smoke began to emerge in the 1970s. As nonsmokers sought to assert their right to a smoke-free environment, they introduced a new justification for tobacco control.