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Hey doc, got a light? Research highlights Big Tobacco’s long history with the medical community

In the 1920s, tobacco companies began a campaign to engage throat doctors into helping calm the public’s growing fears about the harmful effects of tobacco. Yep. You’ve read that right. Throat doctors actually pushed cigarettes as remedies for throat irritation. But are you really surprised? Think about it. The tobacco industry is the most brilliant marketing machine ever. Still today, decades after telling Americans about the vast array of harm caused by cigarette smoking, millions of Americans light up. (Hollywood still loves cigarettes. I saw the film The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo this past weekend and almost every character had a cigarette in their hand.)

Robert Jackler, MD, has tracked the pernicious way in which the tobacco industry joined arms with the medical community to sell cigarettes. In his latest study, the Stanford professor of otolaryngology chronicles the intricate advertising campaign of the last century that attempted to sway American public opinion with slogans such as, “Not one single case of throat irritation with Camels.”

Using internal tobacco company documents made available by the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between industry and attorneys general of 46 states, Jackler and his co-authors reviewed a treasure trove of correspondence, contracts, marketing plans and payment receipts that expose the industry’s highly effective campaign. Jackler’s ongoing research into the history of tobacco company advertising has resulted in several published studies, sparked in part by his collection of thousands of historical cigarette ads exhibited online.

I sat down with Jackler to discuss his work, and the relationship between doctors and cigarette companies, during my latest 1:2:1 podcast.

Previously: The smoking gun of the Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher’s relationship with the tobacco industry, Throat doctors manipulated by Big Tobacco and NPR’s Picture Show highlights Stanford collection of cigarette ads

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