Cartoonists Take Up Smoking Logo Square
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Tobacco has been a mainstay of the American economy since colonial times and was even used as currency in trade with Native Americans.(1) Slavery provided the means for plantation owners to make enormous profits from the cultivation of tobacco. Until 1883, the federal tobacco excise tax accounted for one third of internal revenue collected by the United States government. Internal Revenue Service data for 1879-80 show total tobacco tax receipts of $38.9 million, out of total receipts of $116.8 million.(2)  In 1921 Iowa passed the first state excise tax on tobacco. More states would pass tobacco excise taxes and would in turn become addicted to this source of revenue.

But the grassroots effort beginning in the 1970s  to ban smoking in public places to protect the non-smoking population proved increasingly popular, and in the 1980s Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop used his bully pulpit to make Big Tobacco public enemy number one. By the mid-1990s state attorneys general (AGs) in Mississippi, Florida, Texas, and Minnesota were emboldened to sue the tobacco industry to recoup the health costs paid by the states to care for sick smokers. Editorial cartoonists were quick to note the hypocrisy of the AGs’ indignation toward the tobacco industry after decades of the states’ dependence on cigarette excise taxes. Meanwhile, smoking is now estimated to cost the US economy between $200 billion and $300 billion in health costs and lost productivity (3), compared to the $12.5 billion in cigarette excise tax revenue (out of $3.4 trillion in total government revenue).

  2. [20] in this article from Wikipedia
  3. h/ttps://
Cigar Box Label President Extras 1

Cigar box label designed by Schmidt & Co. of New York

Cigar Box Label Congress Perfectos 1

Cigar box label designed by Schmidt & Co. of New York

Cigar Box Label Senate Bouquet 1

Cigar box label designed by Schmidt & Co. of New York

Payne Cartoon Addicts 1

Henry Payne
Distributed by Scripps Howard

Stein Cartoon No School Lunch Subsidies 1

Ed Stein
Rocky Mountain News (Denver, Colorado)
May 26, 1981

n.d. Capadura Grover Cleveland 1

Advertising postcard featuring Grover Cleveland
Circa 1883-1885

Fell Cartoon Give Me the 3rd World 1

Paul Fell of the Nebraska Press Association
Lincoln Journal Star

“Trying to place a lid on Big Tobacco is like trying to nail JELL-O to a wall. As evidenced by this cartoon, when you think you have them on the run here at home, they simply slither away to make up their losses by boosting tobacco sales to third world countries.”
~ Paul Fell

Locher Cartoon Drug or Non Drug 1

Dick Locher
Chicago Tribune

“John Fischetti and I had lunch at Ricardo’s one day, not long after his coronary bypass—that was his first warning about cigarettes. Ricardo’s is one flight of stairs below Michigan Avenue and when we came out of the restaurant I saw John pause. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked. ‘My doctor tells me having sex is like going up a flight of stairs,’ he said, ‘and I’m trying to decide.’”

~ Dick Locher

Horsey Cartoon Teachers Paid With Cig Taxes 1

David Horsey
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“The villainy of the tobacco industry has been a frequent target of my cartoons. I have supported efforts by governments at the local, state and federal level to penalize the industry and to deny the tobacco merchants new customers for their addictive products. However, as in this cartoon, I find it amusing that government has also found tobacco money to be a convenient source of revenue for worthy programs, such as the 100,000 new teachers that Bill Clinton wanted to hire and pay with a cigarette tax. It seems that this kind of revenue dependence could become an unhealthy addiction.”

~ David Horsey

1995 06 07 USA Today Natl Smokers Alliance Ad 1

National Smoker’s Alliance
No Date

Lange Cartoon Smoke Shop Profits Grow 1

Jim Lange
Daily Oklahoman
April 12, 1991

“I try to point out the obvious things people tend to forget. I let the cartoon speak for itself. If I have to explain, I haven’t done my job.”

~ Jim Lange

Breen Cartoon Lighters 2

Stephen Breen of the San Diego Union Tribune
Asbury Park Press (Monmouth County and Ocean County, New Jersey)

“The only thing more attractive than a cigarette to a nicotine addict might be a ‘bad guy’ to a cartoonist. We just have to go after them. Make that a rich, arrogant group of bad guys who lie and profit from human death and suffering (and target kids) and the target is irresistible. That’s the reason I did so many on Big Tobacco and those in Congress who helped protect them.”
~ Stephen Breen

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