Joseph Califano, Jr.
- On January 11, 1978, the fourteenth anniversary of the publication of the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph Califano, Jr. launched the federal government’s first campaign to prevent teenagers from taking up cigarette smoking and to encourage existing smokers to stop. He announced that HEW would “place the weight of its scientific authority behind programs to inform the they public — especially the young — about why they should not smoke and how can quit if they wish. As the chief health officer of government, I have the duty to see that we do just that.”
- Within weeks, Califano’s efforts were being undermined by President Jimmy Carter, who traveled to North Carolina to assure tobacco famers that the government would make cigarette smoking “even safer than it is today.” As Califano’s campaign continued to gain momentum, and after HEW published the most comprehensive indictment yet of cigarette smoking in its 1979 Surgeon General’s Report, Carter fired Califano. There was little doubt that the main reason was his fervent anti-smoking stance.
- Until 1975 Califano had smoked as many as three packs of cigarettes a day, but he kicked the habit at the request of his then 11-year-oid son, Joe. “It was September, and I asked him what he wanted for his birthday.” he told The New York Times. “He said, ‘I want you to stop smoking.’ ‘No, seriously,’ I said. ‘What do you want for your birthday and for Christmas?’ And he repeated that wish.“Joe’s now a surgical oncologist and director of the Head and Neck Cancer at the University of California at San Diego.”(Personal communication with Joseph Califano, Jr, June 13, 2019)
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