On this day April 1, 1970

President Richard Nixon signs the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act into law, requiring the Surgeon General’s warnings on tobacco products and banning cigarette advertisements on television and radio in the United States starting on January 1, 1971.

Luther Leonidas Terry

The Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act was one of the major bills passed by the United States Congress in response to U.S. Surgeon General Luther Leonidas Terry’s 1964 report that found that lung cancer and chronic bronchitis are causally related to cigarette smoking.

Congress previously passed the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act in 1965 requiring that all cigarette packages sold in the United States carry a health warning. But after a recommendation by the Federal Trade Commission, the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act amended the 1965 law so that the warnings are made in the name of the Surgeon General.

One of the major advocates of the cigarette advertising ban was the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC argued that since the topic of smoking is controversial, numerous TV and radio stations continued to break the Fairness Doctrine when airing these commercials because they did not give equal time to the opposing viewpoint that smoking is dangerous.

The Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act was introduced into Congress in 1969, but it was not until April 1, 1970 when U.S. President Richard Nixon signed it into law. The actual cigarette advertising ban did not come into force until January 2, 1971, as per a compromise that allowed broadcasters to air these commercials during their telecasts of college football bowl games on New Year’s Day.

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