by Kristin Noll-Marsh
Wisconsin Tobacco Harm Reduction Blog
In a recent Time magazine online article, “Let’s Stop Being Passive About Fighting Obesity: It’s time to embrace the same tactics that worked against smoking,” public health writer Shannon Brownlee drew comparisons between smoking and obesity, calling for public health (and the public) to start treating fat people like smokers. I responded in the comments, but felt it was worth posting here, as well:
The author says, “The war on smoking worked because it made smoking shameful and the public health measures needed to fight it permissible.”
In fact, the war on smoking was most successful from 1950 (when the link to lung cancer was found) through the 1980’s – when public health focused on education and information, not the “shaming” of smokers. The smoking rate dropped dramatically from 44% to 26% (from 1950 to 1990.) The greatest advances in the mid to late 1980’s – nicotine gum approved by the FDA, first city bans smoking in restaurants in 1987, nicotine compared to heroin (without any actual studies to support it), had very little impact in the following decade. The research on second-hand smoke came out in the 1990’s, which was gleefully used to change a war against the negative health effects of smoking (to HELP smokers improve their health) into a war AGAINST smokers.