Warning: This website will be hazardous to your preconceptions.
Founded in 1999, the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society holds the largest collection of original documents, artifacts, ephemera, photographs, and news coverage of anti-smoking activism, cigarette marketing, and the tobacco industry in the United States from the 19th century to the present. Through online exhibitions, oral histories, and presentations, this vast and ironic resource explores historical and contemporary aspects of tobacco problems from all angles — including the many decades of fear and foot-dragging by public health officials, organized medicine, schools of medicine and public health, the mass media, the business community, and political leaders at the local, state, and federal levels in countering the use and promotion of cigarettes long after the health community knew of the deadly toll taken by smoking.
The Center’s exhibitions provide sobering lessons about the failure of government, academia, foundations, and health organizations alike to overcome their addiction to money for endless, duplicative research — a strategy set in motion in 1954 by the tobacco industry itself, when it attempted to burnish its nicotine-stained image by creating the Tobacco Industry Research Committee [renamed the Council for Tobacco Research in 1964 following the indictment of cigarettes by the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health], which offered lucrative employment opportunities for scientists willing cast doubt on the growing evidence of cigarette smoking as a major cause of death and disease. Nor have cigarette makers skipped a beat, reframing themselves as altruists providing a range of noncombustible addictive nicotine products and hiring academics and former officials of the World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration, and the American Legacy Foundation to tout a smoke-free, reduced-harm paradise. The tobacco debacle can also be seen as an ominous metaphor for addressing emerging health problems such as digital media addiction, obesity, vaccination refusal, and disinformation.