This exhibition is dedicated first and foremost to Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of the City of New York from 2002-2013 (and currently World Health Organization Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and also Special Envoy for Climate Change), who made the health and well-being of New Yorkers his paramount priority as Mayor. To this end, he galvanized attention to the health and economic costs of cigarette smoking and built on the foundation laid by a relative handful of anti-smoking activists to make New York City a global model for tobacco control — strengthening clean indoor air laws to protect the public from exposure to second-hand smoke, restricting tobacco promotion; stepping up anti-smoking education in schools and in the mass media; and raising cigarette taxes to the highest level in the US.
The exhibition is also dedicated to Edith Everett, who with her late husband Henry Everett became the conscience of the financial sector in the 1980s and 1990s by being among the few voices in the investment community to condemn the largely New York City-based tobacco industry — home to Philip Morris, American Brands (American Tobacco), and Loews (Lorillard Tobacco). Edith Everett led the successful effort to get the City University of New York to become one of the first universities in the nation to divest its tobacco stocks. Devoutly religious, the Everetts exposed and condemned the attempts by the Tisch family (principal owners of Loews) to burnish its image through donations to Jewish causes. The Everetts’ philanthropy extended to countless New York City institutions.
Others to whom much is owed include Joe Cherner, who tirelessly led the anti-smoking effort in New York City from the late-1980s to the early-2000s; the late Tony Schwartz, the media guru whose anti-smoking commercials helped win public support and influence the New York City Council; the late William Cahan, MD, a renowned New York lung cancer surgeon and one of the lone voices of the medical profession to crusade against the tobacco industry throughout his career (and who famously renamed his operating room “Marlboro Country”); the Reverend Calvin Butts, who fought against the proliferation of cigarette and alcohol billboards in minority communities; George Gitlitz, MD, who campaigned for 25 years to get The New York Times to stop accepting cigarette advertising; Joseph A. Califano, Jr., the first Secretary of Health Education, and Welfare to make ending the smoking pandemic a top priority; the late C. Everett Koop, MD, the Surgeon General who used his bully pulpit to gain public support for anti-smoking activism; and the late Leon Blum, MD, a general practitioner in the Rockaways, who in the 1950s recognized the devastating impact of smoking on his patients and inspired the curator of this exhibition to devote a career to exploring ways to counteract the tobacco pandemic.