In his fictional open letter, "Why I'm quitting tobacco,"
Draper wrote: "For 25 years, we
devoted ourselves to peddling a product for which good work is irrelevant
because people can't stop themselves from buying it. ... The product has never
improved, it causes illness, and it makes people unhappy. But there was money in
it. A lot of money. In fact, our entire business depended on it. We knew it wasn't
good for us, but we couldn't stop." He went on to announce, "Here was my
chance to be someone who could sleep at night because I know what I'm selling
doesn't kill my customers. So as of today, Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce will
no longer take tobacco accounts."
If only it had been so. The reality, however, was that
advertising agencies were not about to blow the whistle on cigarettes. They
were too busy getting rich pushing cigarettes to the public, glamorizing their
image in television and print ads with rugged cowboys and movie stars helping
to sell them to Americans of all ages. In 1964, after the Surgeon General's report, tobacco companies agreed not to promote cigarettes to those
under age 21 but have repeatedly been questioned about the reality of this pledge.
It was not until 1978 that Califano, using his Cabinet
platform as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, launched a
controversial government-led health campaign to curb smoking, which he dubbed
"slow-motion suicide." This week the Institute of Medicine bestowed its
prestigious 2010 Lienhard Award on Califano for his career efforts to curb
smoking and broader work in reducing addiction and substance abuse.
Califano acknowledged that back then he could never have
imagined that the national anti-smoking effort that he and others championed would
have so much impact in the decades to come: smoke-free airplanes, offices, hotels,
restaurants and even bars in many parts of the United States have pushed
smokers into an endangered minority. Today about 20 percent of American adults still smoke, down from about
42 percent in 1965.
"To be honest, I doubt if I ever foresaw this much progress,"
said Califano, the founder and chair of the National Center on Addiction and
Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. "I used to say, 'I want a world in which instead of, Do you
want a cigarette? people would ask, Do you mind if I smoke?'" said Califano. The
growth of public smoking restrictions have so dramatically changed the cultural
norms that "today smoking is simply not cool. It is not socially acceptable," he
Califano recalled the political firestorm that ignited
following his January 11, 1978, announcement of a broad government campaign to
educate the public about smoking's widespread health hazards. He also made his department's
headquarters smoke-free--immediately--so when he came to work the next day "there
were employees protesting in front of the building because they couldn't smoke
in their offices" (he characteristically did not back down).