Tobacco – It was So Glamorous

In his autobiography, (pub by Alfred Knopf, 1995) journalist and news commentator David Brinkley talks about his first exposure to the fact that cigarette smoking is unhealthy. Looking for news to report on in 1944 in Washington D.C. he spotted an organization called the Anti-Cigarette Alliance. He asked himself "Why would anyone be anti-cigarette? Weren’t Clark Gable and Carole Lombard and all the great stars smoking all over the screen? Didn’t President Roosevelt smoke Camels by the carton?…Didn’t the magazine ads show the essence of calm and sophisticated satisfaction to be a lovely woman prettily balancing a cigarette in manicured fingers while the smoke floated away in languid curls?…Who could oppose that?" Brinkley visited the organization in its shabby old building where a secretary passed him in to talk to a bouncy white haired little man. Brinkley asked him what was wrong with cigarettes. The man replied: "Plenty. They’ll kill you. Smoke them a few years and you’ll have lung cancer, emphysema or heart trouble. I know you don’t believe me. The tobacco companies with their clever ad agencies have made cigarette smoking look romantic and glamorous . And safe. It’s not."

"How do you know all this? Why don’t others know it?

"They will. My friends in surgery tell me lung cancer was almost nonexistent until recently. Now they’re seeing it more often in the lungs of smokers."

David Brinkley wrote a little story about the Anti-Cigarette Alliance and its founder, and wrote "I regret to say I treated him and his ideas as a joke, when he was right, and right earlier than anyone else I knew."
But it is understandable why David did not believe the head of the anti-cigarette alliance. To believe him meant overthrowing a set of glamorous media images, and it meant believing that a little man in a shabby office was on to something that the mainstream, including presidents, movie actors, and many others, were totally ignorant of, and which could indeed shorten their lives.

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