Smoking: Nursing Implications Term Paper

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History of smoking and the effects on health

History of smoking

The history of smoking and its effect on health

Hard as it may believe to be today, the ill effects of smoking were not always well-known. The practice originated in the Americas with the Native Americans and the European colonists also indulged in the practice. Tobacco was a major cash crop in the South even before America formally became a nation. "Most early European physicians subscribed to the Native American belief that tobacco can be an effective medicine" (A brief history of tobacco, 2000, CNN). Smoking became more and more popular with the use of cigarettes. Initially, it was not considered decorous for women to smoke but in the 1920s, with the rise of the flapper and the New Woman, many women began to smoke to demonstrate their newfound liberation.

However, the democratization of smoking also coincided with increasing knowledge of its ill effects. "In 1930, researchers in Cologne, Germany, made a statistical correlation between cancer and smoking...By 1944, the American Cancer Society began to warn about possible ill effects of smoking, although it admitted that 'no definite evidence exists' linking smoking and lung cancer" (A brief history of tobacco, 2000, CNN). During this era it was still not unusual to see Hollywood actors smoking on screen and doctors even endorsed cigarettes in commercials. The first major news article on the subject was published in 1952, when Reader's Digest's "Cancer by the Carton" took the case against smoking to the public. Sales began to go down but the tobacco companies responded by creating low-tar 'healthier' cigarettes. However, the final scientific blow against the debate over smoking was struck by the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health in 1964 which unequivocally stated that smoking caused lung cancer and other respiratory diseases (A brief history of tobacco, 2000, CNN). Today, the majority of smokers say they want to
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quit, although the practice has by no means been eradicated given that the substance is extremely addictive (Borrello 2010).

Who were the stakeholders in opposition to smoking?

Stakeholders which have lobbied for more stringent legislation against the tobacco companies include various public interest groups such as the American Lung Association. Gradually, there has been pressure to ban cigarette advertising targeting minors and cigarette advertising on television. The numbers of places in which people can smoke is narrowing: New York City and several major metropolitan locations banned the practice in bars and restaurants. Although some politicians have taken a stand against smoking -- for example, Mayor Michael Bloomberg "pushed to ban smoking in indoor public spaces and prohibit cigarette sales to anyone under 21" which resulted in the smoking rate going down 21.5% in 2002 to 15.5% today (Caruso 2012).

Who were the lobbyists in favor of a hands-off approach?

However, the tobacco companies have historically had a very powerful voice in Washington D.C. arguing against more stringent legislation. "In the 1990s, and into the early years of the 21st century, the tobacco industry's presence on Capitol Hill was indeed substantial. But during that time, the industry became the target of many citizen groups and politicians. Legal battles during the late 1990s resulted in settlements costing the industry billions of dollars" (Tobacco background, 2014, Open Secrets). The cigarette companies strove to normalize a demonstrably unhealthy behavior until quite recently.

It was later found that 'Big Tobacco' systematically concealed the health risks of its product, making it the recipient of a lawsuit in 1998 in which "Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, Liggett Group and Lorillard Tobacco agreed to pay $246 billion to 46 states suing the industry to recoup Medicaid costs…The cigarette companies also promised to adhere to a ban on outdoor advertising and curb youth-oriented marketing programs involving product placement, branded merchandise and multiple sponsorships" (Beirne 2001).


Sources Used in Documents:


Adult cigarette smoking in the United States. (2014). CDC. Retrieved from:

Beirne, M. (2001). Big tobacco gets tough. Brandweek, 42(20), 28-34.

Borrello, S. (2010). Help your patients with smoking cessation. Nursing Made Incredibly Easy, 8

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