chapter  7
20 Pages

The 'invisible industrialist' and public health: The rise and fall of 'safer smoking' in the 1970s


Hostility to the tobacco industry is axiomatic in contemporary public health. In 2003 on the ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) website, we read that:

Tobacco is unique: the only product that kills when used normally - 120,000 deaths per year in the UK. ASH is leading the fight to control the tobacco epidemic and to confront the lies and dirty tricks of the tobacco industry. 1

TV documentaries such as the Tobacco Wars or The Secrets of Big Tobacco tell of the forty-year struggle to hold US tobacco companies to account for the damage cigarettes have caused. Journalist histories The Smoke Ring and Dirty Business - Big Tobacco at the Bar of Justice recount a thrilling story of corporate greed and duplicity, of big business that cared little for the health of its customers. 2•3 The popular UK television series Yes Minister had a classic episode exposing the close relationship between government ministers and the industry, which brought a humorous spin to the relationship, based on real-life events.4