70th Anniversary of smoking link to cancer

It’s 70 years since the UK Government recognised that smoking caused lung cancer. A review of what has happened since and the ongoing battle against tobacco.

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The ongoing fight against tobacco: A public health perspective

The Guardian’s recent opinion piece marks a sombre anniversary, reflecting on the 70 years since the British government first acknowledged the link between smoking and lung cancer. Sir Richard Doll and Sir Austin Bradford Hill pioneered research that finally proved the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

This recognition triggered seven decades of public health initiatives aimed at curbing smoking rates, reducing the harm caused by cigarettes, and a relentless fight against the hazardous impacts of tobacco and nicotine.

Sir Richard Peto, a pioneer in the field, equates the impact of the findings linking lung cancer and smoking to the historic improvements in sanitation during the 19th century, and emphasised the significant strides made in public health due to this knowledge.

The journey from the initial discovery to the implementation of regulation has been a slow and contested one. Opposition from the tobacco industry remains to this day and even as late as the 1990s smokers were resistant to the clear evidence linking smoking to lung cancer. Subsequently, government actions have gradually aligned with medical evidence, advocating for public health over tobacco interests, slowed only by lobbyists working on behalf of Big Tobacco.

Tobacco’s lethal legacy, causing 80,000 UK deaths annually from related diseases, demonstrates the importance of robust public health policies, after all, one in two smokers die as a direct result of their smoking.

Successive governments have frequently been guilty of a lax approach to public health policy, often choosing voluntary agreements over binding legislation.

Public health initiatives have continuously faced tobacco industry pushback. There are endless examples; one famous one saw a legal challenge by Phillip Morris against Thames TV in the mid-1970s. Phillip Morris executives were interviewed for a TV documentary called ‘Death in the West’, which tracked five ‘Marlboro Man-style’ cowboys, all of whom were dying from smoking-related illnesses. Woven in between the cowboys’ stories Thames featured the interviews with the tobacco company’s executives. Big Tobacco was not happy and prevented the documentary from being shown again. Such smother tactics are a trademark of the tobacco industry.

Internationally, the tactics of the nicotine industry continue to attempt to undermine scientific consensus to protect their interests.

The failed tobacco and vapes bill under Rishi Sunak’s administration shows the challenges with achieving any legislation. However, the proposal has cross-party support, so it is anticipated to resurface under a future government and could be another key moment in the fight against the harm caused by smoking.

This legislation aims to make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after 2009 and introduces stricter controls on vapes.

Comment by Allen Carr’s Easyway

It’s important to recognise the significance of this 70th Anniversary. The efforts of heroes such as Professor Doll took decades to prove the harm caused by smoking and we face similar challenges today in establishing the true harm caused by vaping.

The struggle against Big Nicotine continues with both smoking and vaping where the old smoking marketing play book from the 1950s and 1960s has been utilised to great effect in making their highly addictive and harmful products seem harmless, healthy, sexy and cool.

The gradual shift in public and governmental attitudes towards stricter smoking and vaping regulations is a positive step towards safeguarding future generations from tobacco’s harm. The important thing is to help those who are currently addicted to nicotine products, and who wish to quit, to do so.

Our method and approach focuses on helping individuals understand how they became addicted and how they can get free with ease. Our drug free, clinically proven method, perfectly complements broader public health efforts.